This is a beautifully beaded “reticule” or indispensable bag. When women’s fashions changed from having wide shirts or undergarments with pockets to a slim Regency style with no room for pockets, French designers created this style of drawstring bag to be carried around the wrist. After the Industrial Revolution the world became more mobile and interconnected. In the late 1800s glass beads in a variety of colors and sizes were used to cover handbags. They are artistic examples of the period and many were imported from Europe.
A very fashionable Fincastle lady, Elizabeth Ferguson McDowell, used this beaded reticule. She was featured in the March 31, 2023, Fincastle Herald that showed the large tortoise shell hair comb she wore. She emmigrated from Ireland with her parents, Joseph and Jane Kyle Ferguson. In 1966 Mrs. James McDowell gave this beaded purse to the Botetourt Museum of History and Culture for future generations to enjoy. It is now on display in a new exhibit that “explores the life and times of Botetourt County during the 1800s through fashion, wartime and leisure.” For more information:
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