Tintype – circa 1870

Tintype, (2.4 x 3.4 inches) – circa 1870

The purse in this image is generally referred to as a fist purse, because of its diminutive size and clenched fist shape. These are as prevalent in collections today as the Niagara style bags and by 1870, the fist purse had become the fashionable Iroquois bag.

This particular example is in the style made by the Tuscarora. There is a series of stereo views that was taken by the Niagara Falls photographer, George Barker, in which Tuscarora women can be seen selling this style of purse.

In this charming tintype, a child proudly displays her fist purse.  The edges of the bag appear to be decorated with crystal beads and the other side may have had a floral design. The three clusters of beaded loops along the bottom were partially strung with tubular beads and the strap was likely beaded as well. It’s one of many images from this decade of children holding this type of purse and it’s likely that this style was being made specifically for them.

The designs that covered the surface of many fist purses were primarily floral and leaf patterns though finer examples were decorated with animal motifs.