Left) Embroidered Chinese Silk purse with Peking glass bracelets, circa 1900
(right) Pie Crust purse decorated with glass beads, circa 1850
Like most people, you probably never gave much thought to the purses being carried by women every day. But, were you aware that purses have been around forever, or so it seems, and they come in all shapes, sizes, material and decoration?
Heather Caverly has been collecting purses since she was a teenager in Belgium 38 years ago and today she has a collection of well over 100 of them. Some date back to the early 1820s and some of the more ‚Äúrecent‚Äùpurses were in use in the depression days of the 1930s.
Caverly will display many of her purses and discuss the ‚ÄúHistory of the Purse‚Äù at a pair of Steilacoom Historical Museum Association sessions at the Steilacoom facility on Saturday and Sunday, Sep. 27 and 28. Each session, limited to 35 people, will start at 2:30 pm. For reservations, call 253-584-4133 and leave your name and the number of people in your party. Admission is free for museum members and $3 for others.
The speaker plans to bring about 80 purses to the sessions. Most of them will be displayed on boards and others will be passed around for a closer look. The smallest book in Caverly‚Äôs collection is the size of a silver dollar. Some are beaded bags made with over 250,000 minute glass beads. There are purses made of leather, silk, sterling, enamel, glass and steel. Some are decorated with tapestry, petit point and gold. The bags are valued from under $100 for an Irish Crochet bag to over $8,000 for the solid gold purse with cabochon sapphires.
Caverly says she doesn‚Äôt consider herself an expert but anyone wanting her to examine a purse and get her opinion of its origin and value is welcome to bring it.