sun·dries | \ ˈsən-drēz; Miscellaneous small articles, details or items.
Museums all over the world contain incalculable amounts of small items, bits and pieces. These sundry items also have their own stories and can provide a glimpse into a more pinpointed look into our past. Many of these items are rarely the focus of an exhibit, but they can often add an extra element of interest. I have chosen eight items that are sometimes used to enhance exhibits and I hope you enjoy them.
(Left to Right)
1940s-50s Gaucho Boot Knife, beautifully embellished with flora and fauna on the sheath, with perhaps a dragon on the tip. Made of Brazilian stainless steel, the knife is engraved with "ABRAMO EBERLE & C I/A" "CAXIAS." Abramo Eberle was born on April 2, 1880 in Schio, Vicenza province, Italy. At some point he immigrated to Brazil. He was a mere 16 when he founded Metalúrgica Abramo Eberle (est. 1896) located in Caxias do Sul, Brazil. In the early years he made items such as kerosene lamps. In 1928, he added a forge and began making swords for the military and knives. After his death in 1945 his sons took over the family business until the 1980s when it was acquired by another firm Zivi Hercules to form Mundial. The knife was donated by Charles Brewster of the Madison Inn on December 31, 1997.
Circa 1880-1920 Crystal and Sterling Silver Inkwell. Donated by Janice Griffin in 1991, this lovely inkwell does not bear a maker’s mark. Due to the estimated age of the artifact, it has been used to enhance exhibits featuring documents as well as home life scenes. Inkwells are believed to date back to ancient Egypt when scribes wrote on papyrus. Using an inkwell (and pen) in an exhibit imply that the individual(s) represented were educated and may have maintained written accounts and records, or, perhaps had the leisure time to write letters.
Victorian (1837-1901) Sterling Silver Seal. The use of a seal can be traced back as far as 3100 B.C. Some of the earliest human records are the seals themselves. Simplistically, the use of a seal was to provide authentication of something official, identification, and in some cases some degree of privacy or secrecy. During the Victorian Era there were rules of etiquette for the use of seals as well as the appropriate colors of wax. For example large seals were considered to be in poor taste and one could only use black wax during the period of mourning. Men traditionally used red wax while women used gilt, rose and other colors. There were times when only melted wax was acceptable rather than using the wafer. Further, your relationship with the recipient determined the use and placement of a seal. By the 1880s the use of sealing wax went out of fashion, but did not disappear; yet the rules still applied. Donated in 1983.
Victorian (1837-1901) Thimble. The thimble belonged to my grandmother, Virginia Kendall Brockman, and I don't know who used it before her. I used it for many years when I sewed a lot, making most of my own clothes and some for my mother, sister and her two boys.- Jean Kraft Graves. This thimble is sterling silver, size 11 and has the initials CM etched in the interior. The thimble is embellished with a sunflower on the rim. The thimble was and is usually worn on a finger or the thumb to protect those digits while sewing. The earliest known thimble was found at Pompei. It was Roman, dated to the first century AD, and made of bronze. Collecting thimbles became a popular past-time in the mid-1800s as a result of the special thimbles that were crafted for the 1851 Great Exhibition held in the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London. Early thimbles were also made of ivory, whale bone, and leather. This thimble was donated by Jean Kraft Graves in 2019.
Victorian (1837-1901) Vial Pendant. Called a “tear catcher” design, this elongated textured glass vial would have held perfume. The vial would dangle from a delicate chain and the shape would fit discretely and decoratively in the lady’s décolletage (low neckline). Also, the vial could be decoratively pinned onto a necklace. Prior to the development of more effective anti-perspirants/deodorants, vials and other decorative containers of perfume came in handy to either sniff to stave off unpleasant odors, or dab onto oneself to cover those odors. Donated in 2005.
1881 Rug Punch Needle. Rug making is an ancient art that has ebbed and flowed in popularity throughout history. The tools to hand make rugs vary in shapes and sizes and are often left unidentified when available in various antique or trash/treasure type shops and stalls. The first patent for a punch needle was in 1881 by Ebenezer Ross was called "The Griffin." This specific tool was called a "violin" style and was also patented in 1881. Between 1881 and 1932 there were 100 punch needle patents issued. The punch needles are always used in a downward motion and usually from the back of the rug material. This artifact has been used in textile exhibits, lady’s past-times exhibits, and a tools exhibit. Donated by Janice E. Griffin in 1991.
Late Victorian-Edwardian (1880-1910) Shoe/Boot Button Hook. The Victorian era was one of the greatest for innovation and invention. Their love of innovation led to the production of a great variety of tools and other items designed to make life easier…for those of sophistication and refinement. The buttonhook, dating back to 1611, was one of those tools improved to make the fastening and unfastening of lady’s footwear more easily accomplished. With the growth of the middle class and their desire to enjoy refinements previously limited to the upper class, the button hook became a household item by the 1890s. Shorter versions of the hook were usually for bodices, neck collars and gloves. This hook has been used in fashion exhibits. Donated by Mrs. Sharon Vilga in 1998.
Lady’s Handkerchief. Pre-1940s. The handkerchief has a history that begins well back in time, as far back as Classical Greece and the Roman Empire. The handkerchief was first mentioned in literature by the poet Catullus around 77 B.C. Small squares of perfumed silk clothes, handkerchiefs, were used by the wealthy to mask the smells of body odors The Roman games were begun with the drop of a lady’s handkerchief, and much like today’s sports towels, Roman spectators would wave handkerchiefs to show their approval. In the Middle Ages handkerchiefs were a sign of wealth. During tournaments, knights would wear a lady’s handkerchief to publicly show he had her favor. It was during the Renaissance that the fabrics for handkerchiefs expanded to include cambric or linen. Theses squares, now also called “napkyns,” were often embroidered and were embellished with exquisite lace. Both men and women used these handkerchiefs/napkins. Throughout the 1700s onward, the style and use of handkerchiefs varied according to your social standing. If you look back at the 1920s-1950s, no self-respecting lady would be without a dainty handkerchief to pat perspiration off her face, dab at a tear, or gently blot her nose. Gentlemen of that same timeframe would usually carry larger squares of cotton, linen or silk for the same purposes; however, I doubt they “dabbed” tears or noses. Handkerchiefs can add texture and style to an exhibit and sometimes a splash of color. We have a lovely collection of handkerchiefs dating from early 1900 - 1960s thanks to Ms. Lurli Gay.
Next time you visit an historic site or museum, try to spot the sundries that add a little whimsey or detail to an exhibit.