Silas Goodrich (bandbox) and Collins & Fairbanks (top hat)
- Silas Goodrich (bandbox) and Collins & Fairbanks (top hat)
- BANDBOX AND BEAVER TOP HAT
- Printed wallpaper on pasteboard, with silk-lined beaver skin hat
Offered together with another larger box with lid. (4 pieces)
Sotheby’s New York, "The Bertram K. Little and Nina Fletcher Little Collection, Part I," January 29, 1994, lot 85
American Radiance: The Ralph Esmerian Gift to the American Folk Art Museum, p. 111, fig. 74A
The larger boxes were suitable for a wide variety of purposes, from travel to storage, and their popularity from the 1820s through the 1840s can be traced through the proliferation of companies, especially in New York and New England, that rose to meet demand. Many of these were primarily wallpaper manufacturers, but businesses devoted exclusively to the production of bandboxes also operated side by side. Papers printed specifically for use as bandbox covers were introduced as early as the late eighteenth century and were available as florals, geometric repeats, scenic views, and commemorative papers. The patterns were designed to the scale and proportion of different sections of the oval or round boxes.
The large bandbox, with a top hat printed on its side, was produced for Peter Higgins, whose name and place of business are printed on the top of the lid. Higgins was a Boston hatmaker who operated at 1 City Wharf during the 1830s and 1840s.2 Bandboxes came in standard sizes of twelve to fourteen inches high, large enough to store a hat, but were also sold in nests of at least three graduated sizes that were stored or shipped one inside the other.
The miniature bandbox may be one of the smaller boxes of a nest, or it could have been custom ordered to house the miniature beaver top hat within. Although this diminutive hat may have been intended for a child's doll, it is more likely a sample, as the label of the hatmaker, George Vail, is pasted inside the crown. According to the label, Vail's business was in Newark, New Jersey, but the bandbox may have been purchased from one of the many large New York manufactories operating at the time which often advertised that they shipped their products.3 The rage for bandboxes had quieted by the 1840s and virtually disappeared by the time Elizabeth Leslie dismissed them as "no longer visible among the travelling articles of ladies" in Miss Leslie's New Receipts for Cooking (1854).4 -S.C.H.
1 See Catherine Lynn, Wallpaper in America from the Seventeenth Century to World War I (New York: W.W. Norton in association with Cooper-Hewitt Museum, 1980), pp. 292-300, for an in-depth discussion on the history of bandboxes, and Little, Neat and Tidy, p. 98. Little traces the term "bandbox" back even further, citing a 1636 reference in the estate of Sarah Dillingham of Ipswich, Mass.
2 Little, Neat and Tidy, pp. 103, 105. A similar example is illustrated in Lilian Baker Carlisle, Hat Boxes and Bandboxes at Shelburne Museum (Shelburne, Vt.: Shelburne, 1960), p. 3.
3 Grace-Ellen McCrann, The New Jersey Historical Society, Newark, e-mail to Lee Kogan, MAFA, Aug. 21, 2000 (AFAM files) and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Family Search Internet Genealogy Service
4 Lynn, Wallpaper in America, p.300.