Antique 1900s Gorham sterling silver and leather chatelaine bag has a lovely Art Nouveau floral frame featuring a mix of dahlias, cattails, and dainty wildflowers, while the repousse-work clip features foliate swirls with a single rose in the center.
The dark brown leather of the purse has been textured with deep furrows evocative of tree bark. The interior is lined in chamois, with one open sidewall pocket.
One half of the frame is stamped with the trio of Gorham marks (lion, anchor, and the letter “G”), the word “Sterling”, the design number “1255” and the water pitcher mark indicating a date of manufacture of 1903. The other side of the frame is engraved “AMW, Rochester, New York”. A museum inventory number is written near the hinge on this side.
The clip has the Gorham marks, the word “Sterling” and the design number “1120”.
Quite popular in the dawn of the twentieth century, leather chatelaine bags like this were worn clipped to a belt and, with a leather-covered or plated metal frame, might have been sold in a dry goods or department store. A silver mounted example—particularly one with an ornate frame made by a leading silver company—would have been sold by a jeweler, alongside other Gorham silver goods. Photo #8 shows three Gorham ads from 1903 which reflect the Arts & Crafts aesthetic of the time with their emphasis on the age-old skills relied on by its craftsmen (without mentioning, of course, the machinery they also used!)
The purse measures 6” x 5.75”, with a 2” clip and a 3” drop to the chain. Very good, sturdy condition, with slight wear to the edges of the exterior and wear to the lining (including a detached corner to the sidewall pocket); these issues are shown in photo #7. I have given the silver a light polishing but mostly left the rich patina intact.
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