Sunday, June 27, 2010

"Rustic Amusement", a c 1785 Child's Printed Handkerchief

I have several early children's handkerchiefs, but this one is by far my favorite. These earlier ones, 18th c up to the 1820, were larger, and oft printed with some sort of instructional verse, so that while the precious one was riding in the wagon to school...sitting in church or the like, they could reach in their pocket and pass the time 'learning' a life lesson, or reading their Sunday prayers. This one measures 19x18"

My views of early handkerchiefs, is that they were most likely used to 'pat' ones face, wipe away a tear maybe, used to wipe the fingers upon....certainly not to blow ones nose upon! Plain linens would have been used for that, and in a private, not a public place. I am sure there was an element of 'showiness' involved too~ who could have the latest beautifully engraved kerchief....

These medallion types were very popular in the last quarter of the 18th c, and were printed on fine linen and cotton with very intricately engraved copper rollers, just one color printing~ brown, indigo and red the most common colors.

This handkerchief is very fascinating if studied closely~ not only does is show wonderful late 18th c fashions, it gives a little glimpse of what the average person did in their free time....what they did to amuse themselves... the largest central medallion shows older teens sitting under a tree, the boy leaning on his dog, one girl holding a lamb, and the other a bird
This one, titled "innocence', shows a sweet young girl feeding a curly haired sheep and apple

The medallion directly above center is titled 'Going to School', and shows a dapper clad boy on his way, with his books in tow & lunch sack over his shoulder. The initials "J * L" are cross stitched at top center. The medallion directly below center, is titled "Returning from school", also showing a boy. This handkerchief would have been meant for a boy, as all but 2 of the pictures depict boys , and the 2 with girls show them from a gentleman's point of view~ this design most likely had a sister, one meant for girls, that depicted them doing various ladylike endeavours. This is also reinforced by the social standard of the time, that girls were, if at all, educated in the home, and not sent out to school

'the disappointed boy'...looks as tho he has tripped and fallen, perhaps in front of a girl, and caused himself great embarrassment

This has been cut from a larger panel of 6, hand hemmed on 3 sides, with one salvage remaining~ you can see it is printed around the edge with stitch marks even, so one has to look very closely to tell a raw edge from a hemmed one.


19thcgirl said...


I've enjoyed your blog on early handkerchiefs very much, as I collect them myself and have for years. My largest is what's referred to as a snuff handkerchief and commemorates Benjamin Franklin and his Poor Richards Illustrated. All the scenes are in medallions with Benjamin in the middle.


Finegan Antiques said...

As usual a fascinating blog. Some years ago I owned a 18thc handkerchief commemorating George Washington's retirement from the military. Boy that is one textile I wished I had NOT sold. Seller's remorse.
Hope you are having a grand July 4th!


Carole said...

Hi Rachael. As always, your blog is so interesting. I always wondered what the fascination was with these hankies. Now I know and understand. I enjoyed comments from Donna and 19th century girl too.