M20668 | Pocketbook with small watch

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Pocketbook with small watch
Bigelow, Kennard & Co
1875-1900, 19th century
9 x 12.6 cm
Gift from Miss Jessie Johnstone
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Wallet (4)
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Keys to History

The increase in train and automobile travel throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries created a need for articles adapted to travellers and their faster-paced lifestyle.

Pocketbooks of this type were very popular in the 1890s. This one has a number of small compartments that may have held postage stamps, calling cards, coins and paper currency.

The small watch that decorates the pocketbook may have been a reminder to the 19th-century businessman that "time is money." With the increasing urbanization of Canadian society, time schedules were more important. Accurate timekeeping was crucial, for example, to the country's new transcontinental railway. In 1884, Sir Sanford Fleming (1827-1915), who surveyed the West for the Canadian Pacific Railway, proposed the adoption of the system of universal time zones that is familiar to modern-day travellers.

  • What

    This reptile skin pocketbook is lined with kidskin and has a small silver watch that can be removed and worn on a chain.

  • Where

    This pocketbook was made by Bigelow, Kennard and Co., a well-established Boston retailer.

  • When

    In 1871 the Government of Canada began to issue paper currency in various denominations, and billfolds soon replaced coin purses.

  • Who

    This multipurpose pocketbook may have been purchased by a businessman at a fine shop in Boston. It could be considered a forerunner of today's computerized pocket organizer.