Lot 572
  • 572

Silas Goodrich (bandbox) and Collins & Fairbanks (top hat)

7,000 - 9,000 USD
11,250 USD
bidding is closed


  • Silas Goodrich (bandbox) and Collins & Fairbanks (top hat)
  • Printed wallpaper on pasteboard, with silk-lined beaver skin hat
Lid, silkscreened: FROM / PETER HIGGINS'S / HAT AND CAP / ESTABLISHMENT,/ NO. 1 CITY WHARF,/BOSTON.; underside of lid, printed paper label: SILAS GOODRICH,/ Manufacturer of /BAND BOXES,/ Hat, Store Muff & Fancy Boxes,/ OF EVERY DESCRIPTION,/ 25 Court Street, Boston./Entrance through S.H. Gregory & / Co's Paper Hanging Store.; inside hat, stamped: EXTRA QUALITY /TRADEMARK / COLLINS & FAI RBANKS, 383 WASHINGTON St. /OPP. FRANKLIN / BOSTON / REGISTERED.

Offered together with another larger box with lid.  (4 pieces)


Bertram K. and Nina Fletcher Little, Brookline, Massachusetts
Sotheby’s New York, "The Bertram K. Little and Nina Fletcher Little Collection, Part I," January 29, 1994, lot 85


"Compass: Folk Art in Four Directions," New York, The South Street Seaport Museum, June 20-October 7, 2012


Little, Nina Fletcher, Neat and Tidy: Boxes and Their Contents Used in Early American Households, New York: E.P Dutton, 1980, p. 105
American Radiance: The Ralph Esmerian Gift to the American Folk Art Museum, p. 111, fig. 74A

Catalogue Note

Inexpensive pasteboard or lightweight wood boxes were in use as early as the seventeenth century to hold gentlemen's neckbands and lace bands. After Dr. Samuel Johnson described such boxes as "a slight box used for bands" in his 1755 dictionary, the term "bandbox" came into general use.1Bandboxes were particularly popular in America, especially after the first quarter of the nineteenth century, when wallpaper manufacturers increased their versatility by making large boxes and covering them with decorative block-printed papers.

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). -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 (accessed Aug. 14, 2000). A George Vail, hat manufacturer, is listed in the Newark city directories of 1861-1862. His listing was changed to "hatter" in the 1865-1866 directory. He is listed in the directory through 1895, with changes of residence throughout that period. Another George Vail, son of Stephen Vail and Bethiah Young, was born July 21, 1809, in Speedwell, Morristown, N.J., and died May 23, 1875. He married Mary Ann Wilson in 1830. Members of the Vail family are buried in the First Presbyterian Church in Morristown.
4 Lynn, Wallpaper in America, p.300.