Sunday, September 19, 2010

More Early Basket purses~ part 3 of 3~ Shapes, sizes, ect.......

(photo of painting by Joseph Whiting Stock, 1840)

The majority of the baskets I have come across in person, or in images, have most undoubtedly been child size. The very first one I ever bought, is sized tiny for a doll, just 3" in width. Of coarse adult women also had these, tho tending to be on the younger side of life, than the latter, as you can see by the forth coming pictures as we touch on some of the unique shapes of these gorgeous baskets.

Its hard for me to know where to start on this subject, as there are so many~ I want to talk about them all at once! I guess starting with the most common would be easiest, and that is what I call, the pear shape. Of this pear shape, there are two basic varieties~ the solid woven,

and the ones woven with an openwork band around the middle.

This post has a lot of pictures attached to it, so I hope you will indeed wait for them to load~ they are all worth it, and I have used period images to illustrate the shapes as well~ it is really a gift to see them in picture, when they were new and in use, and to have some actual baskets to see how they weathered the years...there are definite weak points, which I will touch on in a bit.

Here is an ambrotype of a pretty little girl holding a solid woven pear shape purse

Double swing handles are most common on all baskets, where singles are used, they are placed directly in the center~ as is the case with this chubby cheeks holding her pear shape purse, of the style with the openwork band around the center

This next ambrotype is my most favorite I think, I had to include it here
The next most common, is what I call the oval shape. Most all of these were made to have either a snap in or hinged lid. Often times the lids are missing, but one can still see the loops where they were attached to. For this variety, there is a type with rounded ends, being truly oval in shape,

and then there are some slightly angular, having eight straight sides

Looking from the side, it is hard to see, but easy from the top, as the next picture of the two baskets are together
The one on the left is clearly octagonal in shape. The following image is an early cdv copy of an earlier yet daguerreotype, the clip to hold it steady for the cdv photo can been seen center bottom. This very well to do little girl has her oval shape purse stuffed to overflowing!

Another daguerreotype of a girl holding an oval shape purse

I love this next daguerreotype, as not only is she holding an octagonal shape purse, the sitter is an older woman.

Fancy weaves are common in this shape as well~ this next one is one of my favorites

This next shape is unique for the outer rib that runs horizontally across the center of the basket.

The body is very full, still kind of an oval shape tho.... and an ambrotype of a girl holding a bit larger of one, you can clearly see the horizontal rib whipped onto the outside of the basket

The above are by far the most common shapes, the rest I sort into the fancy basket department. Just when I think I have a grasp on all the shapes, I will come across something a little different, its always exciting!

Such was the case when I found this ambrotype of a very rectangular basket. It looks to have a yellow daisy painted in the center. This girl had been sitting for a long time with me, keeping her basket's details a secret, until I found this one in the flesh

One of its lids has gone missing, but otherwise, this basket is in near pristine condition, and besides its angular shape, it also has a unique 2 part lid~

Instead of having a one piece lid that snaps into place within an inner ring woven into the basket, or the same on woven hinges, this one's are two separately woven smaller lids, that are hinged to the outside. They open upwards from the center~ the remaining one still has half of the little locking latch attached, you can see it at the top of the center rib on the open lid above

Do you remember my 'chopped' basket that I spoke of in my first segment on these baskets? Here is is, sitting in front of one nearly identical to it. It is easy to see how the delicate openwork was damaged, and then that section taken out all together. The lid's rim has been hand stitched onto the base. These two baskets are nearly identical in weave to the basket in this next daguerreotype, tho if you look closely, it has the 2 part center opening set of hinged lids as that of the rectangle basket above.

This next basket is unique for the foot on its bottom

It is attached at each point where it meets the bottom of the basket. If it were to break off, there would be telltale signs easily seen of where it was attached~ of these I have looked for in my other baskets, and besides one other that still retains its foot, this is the only other example I have

This young teens basket's foot is clearly visible.

I have 6 different daguerreotypes of girls holding wonderful round purses, tho I have only ever seen one painted version in person. I think they were extremely delicate, and easily broken. The handles on all of these are a round loop that was to go over the wrist. Some of the handle loops were attached thru a hole in the top of the basket,

others suspended on a stem of sorts...the one above looks sort of like a an apple

I have but one of this type, the wrist right has been stitched to the hinge end of the middle opening, I think I would have originally been thru the hole you can see at the right side there

I am still searching for shapes~ like this round one above, with the wide openwork section above it

This woman's basket has a great domed lid, and tight solid weave.

This basket is woven entirely in the hex weave, I call it the 'boat basket', because how the lid has a raised section, reminds me of a boat

This adult purse is kind of a combination of the above two~ open weave like the boat basket, with a great domed lid like the one before that

This basket is unique for a couple of reasons~ it has a stationery handle, and the weave is made primarily without the horizontal splints. It is nearly identical to Martha Washington's 1789 sewing basket kept At Mt Vernon in Virginia (her extant basket has no lids)

Adult Baskets......

These are 2 of 3 large adult size baskets I have. The one on the right has has the original paint 'brightened' sometime in its long history, at least it was by a sensitive hand, that did not change the original design, but just paint over it in brighter colors. From base to top of the stationery handle, they measure 14" tall, and length horizontal is the same 14". These adult size baskets differ from the others we have touched on in just one element, and that is that they have the broad center fixed handle. It is not attached in swing fashion like the others, but instead has its ends tapered to a point and woven tightly into the sides of the basket itself. This was obviously a strength point, so the basket could hold articles of some weight and not have the handle break off.

The tapering end can been seen reaching down to over the half way point of the body of the basket.

The loop around the handle slips over the diagonal loop on the lid, to latch it closed
Here is a comparison of the adult basket, to the more common child/youth size. The big basket on the left had been handed down in its original family before it came ot me~ the written provenance states : " Lunch was carried to Church in this basket by Frances Whitman Tillotson, b. 1794" .

Positively dating early objects is difficult, as there is no known and documented 'scource' in, some proof to say that a certain person wove these baskets from this time to this time....and so we must do our best to sleuth out clues. Precious few come with written provenance, but we are fortunate that these were so highly regarded to be included in photos, and before that, paintings and engravings. I date the large lunch baskets to first quarter 19th c, with the smaller ones coming in after. The ones with the triangluar designed foot are only seen in early 1840 daguerreotypes and not after. The fancy weaves I date earlier than the pear & oval shapes~most popular in the late 1850s and early 1860s~ from the clothing of their owners. Daguerreotypes were the first photographic process invented in 1837. These were made up to the mid 1850s, Ambrotypes came on the scene 1855, with tin types following in 1856. cdv's became very popular just before and during the American Civil War.
A Few Parting thoughts.....
These are wonderful pieces of both basketry and folk art, and if you want to collect them, by all means~ do! If I have any advise for would be buyers or sellers, it would be one, to keep them out of direct & incandescent lights to keep the paints from fading, and two, to have extra care for the handles. Below, is how they are originally made and attached~ with the rim splint punctured, and another splint circled around and up thru the handles 3 times. These are the most delicate & failing parts of the baskets

In this picture, you can see 3 arrows~ the center points to where the original single swing handle was attached, and the thinner arrows to each side, where the hinges that attach the lid are.

As seen in the picture below, and in images of the period, it seems these parts have always been an easy breaking point. Some have been wired in place, alot have been re-attached with pretty ribbons, such as these apple green silk ties below

I hope you have enjoyed learning more about these awsome little baskets~ and if you ever see one or have one for sale, by all means, let me know!


Tina Eudora said...

Amazing Rachel, I love the baskets and if I ever come across one I know who to send it to!
I find also that the pictures of the children are so poignant. Their little faces almost look sad with their haunting eyes. I guess life was hard for children back then.
Thanks for the great info, I will be back later to read through it again more slowly!
Tina xo

Daryle and Katie said...

Rachael... What a wonderful, informative post on these amazing baskets and their history! Each one a treasure.
Happy Fall! Daryle

Suzanne said...

Hi Rachael, you have quite the collection! :) Lovely, each and everyone. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, it was an interesting read. The ambrotype of the twins is adorable!