M973.1.57 | Purse

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1880-1900, 19th century
15.2 x 15.5 cm
Gift of Mrs. Raymond Caron
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Purse (67)
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Keys to History

This leather purse, which was worn attached to the belt, was extremely popular beginning in the last quarter of the 19th century. More durable than a cloth purse, it was used especially for outdoor activities, for shopping and travelling. It was also during this period that this accessory starting being used to carry money.

In the 19th century, the purse was above all a fashion accessory. Often made of a soft fabric, embroidered or beaded, which matched the dress, the "reticule" also had its practical aspect. It permitted ladies wearing dresses without pockets to hold onto their personal effects - for example, their handkerchief, their case of smelling salts and their visiting cards.

  • What

    The meaning of the inscription "D.R.G.M." on the metal buckle of the purse is not known. It could be the initials either of the owner, or the artisan.

  • Where

    Leather purses, which were more durable than those made of delicate materials, were used very often for outdoor activities.

  • When

    Leather purses were very popular starting in 1880. At the end of the 19th century, they were so highly prized that they appeared on the Christmas gift suggestion lists of a few big stores.

  • Who

    This purse could have been part of a woman's elegant ensemble worn for outdoor shopping.