EUROPE: When Catherine de Medici married Henry I in 1533, her dowry included several dozen dinner forks. People were shocked when she used them at her wedding. She died two years later from the plague and it was said she was being punished for her use of the "wicked fork"
The fork began to gain acceptance in Italy by the late 1500s when the upper class became interested in cleanliness. The French would have nothing to do with it and considered the fork an awkward, even dangerous utensil. At last, in the seventeenth century, when it was deemed uncivilized to eat meat with both hands, the fork gained popularity.
In England the fork was slow to gain acceptance because it was considered a feminine utensil. Finally, in 1633 Charles I of England declared, "It is decent to use a fork," a statement that heralded the beginning of civilized table manners. It took another century for the fork to be common among the lower class.
In the nineteenth century, mass production made forks more available to the rising middle class. In an effort to copy the nobility there were forks made for every imaginable food, such as berries, birds, cake, cold meat, cucumbers, fish, ice cream, lettuce, lobster, oysters, pickles, salad, sardines, shellfish, strawberrys, souffle, terrapin, tomatoes, and to pass sliced bread at the tea table.
AMERICA: As late as 1827, European visitors still observed Americans shoveling food into their mouths from the round end of knives. An etiquette book of the 1830s defended the practice. But, by the mid 1800s, in an effort to imitate the French and English, eating with a fork became the fashion of the day.