Figure 2, painted in 1774, shows an example of a knitted and beaded miser purse, which must have been a familiar image to 18th century viewers.
The purse was either knitted, netted, knotted, or crocheted, using silk, cotton, wool, and sometimes metallic thread. They were often beaded. The two ends were usually decorated with beads or tassels or fringe. The earlier purses had two identical ends. Victorian purses often have each end decorated differently, so that one could easily tell which type of coin was in each end of the purse. The purses vary in length from as short as 8 inches to as long as 36 inches. The longer sizes were generally seen later, in the mid-19th century.
One of the reasons for the long popularity of the miser purse was that it was fairly easy to make one, and it became fashionable for young ladies to net or knit purses to give as presents, especially to gentlemen. William Cowper wrote a poem to his cousin Anne Bodham "on receiving from her a network purse made by herself." During the mid-19th century through the early 20th century, ladies' magazines often published instructions and patterns for constructing miser purses. Thomas Gardon, a watch chain and purse maker on St James Street, was one of the many vendors who provided all the necessary materials for purse-making. In the first years of the 19th century, he advertised that "Ladies may be accommodated with great choice of Purse-Twist, Tassels, and Sliders."
Sources for more information on miser purses:
Genevieve Cummings & Nerylla Taunton, Chatelaines, Antique Collectors Club, 1994.
Vanda Foster, Bags and Purses, Batsford, 1982.
Evelyn Haertig, Antique Combs and Purses, Gallery Graphics Press, 1983.
Evelyn Haertig, More Beautiful Purses, Gallery Graphics Press, 1990.
Evelyn Haertig, Restoring and Collecting Antique Beaded Purses, Gallery Graphics Press, 2000
Clare Wilcox, Bags, V&A Publications, 1999.
Linda Winfield,Leslie Piña, and Constance Korosec, Beads on Bags 1800-2000, Schiffer Publishing, 2000.
The next stop on Candice's Collections Tour.
Visit the illustrated Regency Glossary.
Check out the list of Regency research links.
Visit the detailed Regency Timeline.
Join Candice on Facebook.