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More Beautiful Purses
by Evelyn Haertig

Misers & Tam O'Shanters

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Misers One of the oldest types of purse still available to the general public originated late in the 1700's. Variously called a miser's, hookers, wallet purse, long purse, stocking purse, and ring purse, they were made by the thousands particularly in England and France. Their popularity was partially due to their speedy construction and continued as late as 1930.

The size of the purse determines whether it was used by a man or a woman. A long narrow tubular shape, it was knit, crocheted, or knotted of silk, cotton and even silver thread. A slit was left open for the few inches down the middle and steel rings were slid down to the wider areas to prevent any coins from escaping. The ends were decorated with beads usually cut steel, and a fringe attached. Those which were beaded through the narrow center portion and were much used, will show ravelled silk, for the rings could not slide easily over the beads. The ends were purposely unmatched shapes: pointed, rounded or squared off, so the user could distinguish by feeling rather than sight whether the coins were gold or silver, or so the story goes. See Figures 160 and 162 dated 1927 on one side and initials M.D. on the reverse.

Women wore the miser's folded over a belt or folded through the middle and held in the hand. Two very handsome versions are see at Figures 147 and 149. Men thrust them into the pockets of great coats, into the belt, or hand carried them. A man's miser could reach thirty-six inches in length, usually made in navy blue with a red pattern or an bilious pea green which was an extremely popular shade int he 189th century.

Ladies' versions were colorful, feminine, and pretty floral and other designs and some were terminated by a silver or gold acorn rather than fringes. One interesting variation had a single ring attached to chains in the center of the purse and was worn as a finger purse. It appears to be unique among misers. When found they are usually inexpensive compared to other more elaborate types of beaded purses.

One of the finest collections of misers is in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts Costume Department. (Plate 150).

Tam-O'Shanter The Tam-O'Shanter (figures 167, 169, 170 and 171) named for its' resemblance to a cap worn by Europeans particularly the poorer Irish whose homes were sometimes called "shanties". It was a small change purse, knit or crochet in an eight pointed star design incorporating steel cut or other large beads. Figure 167 shows how the two section top was attached. The caps were made of brass, silver plated or nickel silver embossed with Art Nouveau or classical designs. They were easy to make, inexpensive, useful, popular late into the 1930's and can be bought at a modest price.

The domestic change purses seen at Figures 163, 164, 165 and 166, are all variations of the stocking purses on a much smaller scale. They are shown nearly actual size. The dance purses allowed objects to be inserted by separating the cords. They were worn as finger ring purses or chatelaines. One is opened by slanting the bars into the ring. All were commonly decorated with American cut steels.