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What is a Miser's Purse?
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Early Beginnings

Miser's purses are known by many names.  Misers, ring or string purses, and finger purses, are just a few of the names they were given.  They originated in the late eighteenth century and were popular into the early 1900's.
 
These purses were used by both men and women and usually were long, almost stocking looking.  One end of the purse was usually rounded, while the other was squared.  "The Ingenious Miser's Purse", in Piecework, Nov/Dec 1996, says this about it's design:
 
 "Narrow in the middle and closed at both ends, miser's purses ranged in the course of their history from 4 to 36 inches long.  During the Victorian era, many miser's purses were from 8 to 10 inches long.  The "toes" of the purse, might be of the same or different shapes, often are tasseled or fringed.
 
 A short slit in the narrow midsection of fabric let the carrier drop coins or other small objects into either end of the tube.  It could be closed off by moving two rings, or sliders, of different materials including steel, brass, silver, gold, or mother-of-pearl toward the ends, gathering the fabric snugly around the contents.
 
When miser's purses were designed with one rounded and one square end, the different shapes had a purpose:  in the frequently poor lighting the correct coins could be withdrawn by feel.  The square end with fringe might contain silver coins and a contrasting diamond, round, gathered or tasseled end, gold coins."
 
With all miser's purses, the object was to keep the contents secure.  The string, or ring miser is a wonderful example of this with its flat, pouch-like shape.  Under the flap, several strings would feed up through the flap and attach to a ring.  Some were single pouches, while others were double-sided. 
 
The popularity of these bags declined in the 1920's, but today, beaded and crocheted bags are making a major comeback.  Maybe you'll see someone carrying one of these unique bags soon!

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