The Georgian Museum is opening a new season with a display of vintage beaded purses called “Retro Reticules.” The purses date from the late 1800s to the early 1900s and are drawn from the Fairfield Heritage collection.
“Men and women have carried purses for hundreds of years,” said Andrea Brookover, executive director of FHA, which operates the Georgian Museum. “In the late 1700s, they became more of an art form, like other needlework.
“Tiny beads were strung together to make exquisite designs,” she said. “Some of the designs look like flowers or geometric shapes. One of the purses in our exhibit is decorated with the scene of a ship on water.”
Godey’s Lady’s Book, a popular women’s magazine in the 1800s, printed patterns to inspire women to personalize their purses. The purses in the exhibit were donated by Jack and Nolene Kelley, the Hewlett family, the Peters family, Adeline Duncan Ragsdale, Mrs. Robert L. Taylor and Mrs. Don Wendel Sr.
FHA member and volunteer Karen Wagner has added to the display with a purse beaded like a peacock that was carried by her ancestor Mary Halbadel Miller.
An interesting variation was the “miser’s purse.” Brookover said, “These purses had a slit in the middle and two metal bands to protect the contents.” The owner would slide the rings to one side, insert coins or some other small item through the slit, and slide a ring back over the slot to keep everything inside.