What Is It? May 2015


May’s What Is It is a stocking purse. Glass beads and a length of 7 inches date this compartmentalized stocking purse to the 1840s. Two small rings slide to close the opening in the center that provides access to each of the end compartments. A larger purse was used in the 18th and early 19th centuries.
Beaded handbags are durable because beads cover the outside completely, forming a protective layer over threads and fabric. Before the 1850s the beads used were glass and were smaller and more intense in color than those that followed. Cut-steel beads became popular around the 1840s and continued to show up, with glass beads, in handbags made as late as the 1930s.
Congratulations to Mario Rivoli of Denver, Colorado and Loene McIntyre of Fort Collins, Colorado for correctly identifying the object. You have both won a year’s subscription to the Mountain States Collector. An added note: both referred to this as a “miser’s purse.” The miser’s purses are the long, tubular ones also known as stocking purses. These were carried by both men and women from the late 18th century until about 1880. They apparently originated with the medieval practice of carrying coins in the toe of a stocking.

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