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Vest Chains Held Men’s Watches Before Wrist
Straps Were Used

Watch Chains

A gentleman of the late 19th century would not consider himself completely dressed until he had attached a heavy silver or gold watch, with a heavy vest chain, to his vest. The chains themselves were an important fashion accessory, and came in a variety of designs.
To carry the fashion one step further, the vest chain also usually had attached to it an additional short chain which could carry a winding key, a cigar clip, a pencil or the gentleman’s seal.

The seals were originally of great importance, taking the place of one’s signature. They were decorated with coats of arms, crests or various other markings cut into carnelian or other precious stones.

Gradually, however, the use of crests and coats of arms was discontinued, and in their place emblems of lodges, occupations or other interests were substituted. These would actually be considered charms, rather than seals.

Charms such as a railroad lantern might represent one’s trade; a union symbol would also be an occupational representation. However, many, if not most, simply represented an interest - a trumpet, a horseshoe, a barrel, or a bunch of cigars are examples. There were also monograms, initials and lockets to hold pictures. All of these were commonly made of rolled gold plate.

Some of the charms were mounted onto onyx, bloodstone or goldstone bases that served as seals. Some used cameos mounted on agate, tigerite, bloodstone or goldstone.

This fashion for men ended near the start of the 20th century, at which time they began to carry their watches on leather straps on their wrists.

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Handkerchief Was Big-Time Fashion Accessory

Corner designs for handkerchiefs, 1870.
Three corner designs for a pocket handkerchief. From Godey’s Lady’s Book, May, 1870. Patterns for all types of handwork were found in the magazine under the heading “Work.”

The handkerchief has been a fashion accessory of ladies since the Middle Ages. At that time, the elegant ones were made of linen, embroidered with gold thread, set with gems around the edges and edged with lace that matched the rest of the costume. (It certainly wouldn’t have been used to deal with a bad cold!)

By the 1800s, they had become a more common item, affordable by almost everyone, although the quality varied according to one’s affluence and the use to which it was being put.

Linen and muslin handkerchiefs were used in the 1830s. A fine white embroidery was a popular decoration; so was the use of elaborate lace, embroidery of openwork, or raised satin stitch, especially for “dress-up” use. There were also handkerchiefs with narrow hems, trimmed with a thin edging of lace, and some with printed borders for everyday use.

The ladies’ magazines, Peterson’s and Godey’s Lady’s Book, carried patterns for decorating handkerchiefs for several decades through the 1800s. Typical was a design featuring leaves and flowers, with a space for a name or initial. The magazines also carried patterns for fancy alphabets, to use in conjunction with the floral designs.

Fashion of the 1860s dictated that the handkerchief should carry an embroidered design that matched the color of the dress. Patriotic patterns were also supplied by Godey’s during this time.

Designs for children’s handkerchiefs were also included with patterns. Animals engaged in various activities were a popular motif.

Openwork embroidery had replaced the early satin stitch embroidery by the 1860s. by this time, too, tatting and crochet work along the edges was being used. Point lace was the fad in the 1870s for handkerchief borders.

Although fine handwork continues to be used on some handkerchiefs even today, for the most part beginning in the 20th century, handkerchiefs had printed designs.

Three corner designs for a pocket handkerchief. From Godey’s Lady’s Book, May, 1870. Patterns for all types of handwork were found in the magazine under the heading “Work.”

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Footwarmer Needs Extra Hot Breath

Next time you’re preparing for a winter storm, consider this device. It’s a footwarmer, patented in 1887.

A quote from the patent papers, as reported in Wild, Wacky & Wonderful Inventions, by Don Stewart, says, “Be it known - it is a well-established fact that our lungs constitute the laboratory of nature - by which animal heat is generted - by breathing into the cup, the hot breath is conveyed to the feet, without much personal inconvenience.”

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