Laura L. Camerlengo
Philadelphia Museum of Art

 

Miser’s purses are among many unusual and little-known costume accessories that pervade today’s museum collections. These small purses with center slit openings and sliding rings or clasp closures were ubiquitous throughout the nineteenth century. As guidebooks, magazines, paintings, prints, works of literature and satire, and other ephemera from the period reveal, these purses and their unique social and symbolic roles were entrenched in contemporary culture.

  • What makes a purse a miser’s purse?
  • Gifts for giving, items for sale
  • Symbolism and significance
  • Further resources

Fig.01


This silk crochet miser’s purse was worked in ombré roll stitches, a technique popular for miser’s purses in the 1870s.

Miser’s purse, American, late 1870s
Green and brown silk crochet in roll stitch, steel beads, metal rings
11 by 3 3/4 inches (27.9 by 9.5 centimeters)
Gift of Historic Strawberry Mansion, 2010-180-13
Philadelphia Museum of Art

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