Whiting and Davis Gift Bags (Purses)
The number of surviving enameled mesh bags by Whiting and Davis amazes me, as does the variety of designs and vivid colors. No wonder they are collectors’ items! Two ads from The Delineator magazine, 1924, one a Christmas ad, and one from May, suggest giving Whiting and Davis bags as presents. Those were the only months when Whiting and Davis ran ads in the magazine.
That made me realize that most of these beautiful bags that have survived in perfect condition were probably gift items. And, at original prices from five to five hundred dollars, they were very nice gifts, indeed. According to Farrell-Beck and Gau’s Uplift, p. 39, “Among women in clerical and business jobs, the annual median wage in the late 1920s was $1,548 [i.e., less than $30 per week.] Weekly paychecks ranged from $6 for an office girl to $40 for a skilled bookkeeper.” Even a $5 evening bag was a luxury item for most women. And, like many gifts, I suspect that a lot of the most spectacular enameled purses were rarely, if ever, used. It’s hard to coordinate a dazzling bag in elaborate patterns and colors with anything but a solid-colored dress, lovely as the bag may look in its gift box.
Christmas Gift, 1924: A Whiting and Davis Vanity or Utility Mesh Bag
This advertisement, from The Delineator, December 1924, gives prices and describes two different bags: The tiny ‘Delysis’ Vanity Mesh Bag, hanging from the arm of the woman in the illustration, has “two mirrors and separate compartments for rouge, powder, and handkerchief.”
The ‘Utility’ Mesh bag [left] is “silk lined, with Vanity Mirror.” Available from “leading jewelers and jewelry departments; $5 to $500.”
Bridal Gift, 1924: A Whiting and Davis Bag in Gold or Silver Soldered Mesh
In the May issue of the same magazine, the Whiting and Davis advertisement suggested that their Renaissance Design bag [right] “in shimmering silver or mellow gold” would be an ideal gift for the bride, or as a gift from the bride to her bridesmaids. “Doubly dear to feminine hearts for its smart correctness, as well as its daily usefulness.”
The Renaissance bag, of “Soldered Mesh” is the ‘chain mail’ type, not the flat, very shiny linked bags which are still made today.
[Note the size in relation to a woman’s hand. Apparently, the woman of 1924 did not have to carry as many objects in her daytime handbag as we do now!]