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Handkerchief, In Memoriam

This is a Handkerchief. It is dated 1901 and we acquired it in 2008. Its medium is cotton and its technique is printed by engraved roller on plain weave. It is a part of the Textiles department.

Since the initial development of copperplate printing in the mid-18th century, designs for textiles have included scenes commemorating political, military, or cultural events of the day, all taken from contemporary engravings. In 1783, Thomas Bell patented a roller printing machine, exponentially increasing the speed at which textiles could be printed while decreasing the cost at which they could be produced. Throughout the 19th century, England’s textile printing industry surpassed that of any other nation. The mechanization of textile printing made textile ephemera affordable, and every 19th-century royal event, political campaign, engineering feat, and military success was accompanied by printed souvenir fabrics. While handkerchiefs were the favored format for souvenir fabrics (and remained so until the introduction of silkscreened t-shirts in the 1960s), some designs were printed on yardage goods that were clearly intended to be used for clothing, curtains, bed hangings, and other household purposes.
The long and popular reign of Queen Victoria, from 1837 to 1901, provided many opportunities for merchandising—from her coronation to her wedding and numerous anniversaries. This memorial handkerchief is quite poorly printed, clearly made in haste following the Queen’s death, but has a piquant urgency, like a news bulletin, providing a good example of the temporal nature of these printed handkerchiefs.
This kerchief is proposed for acquisition along with other souvenir fabrics, including a kerchief printed for the Golden Jubilee in 1887 and another printed for the Diamond Jubilee in 1897. As a group, these provide an excellent demonstration of how costly sets of printing blocks and rollers were repurposed for various designs. These pieces complement each other and expand upon the British souvenir fabrics currently held by the museum, including one dating from 1837 depicting the coronation and another yardage fabric from the 1897 celebrations.

This object was featured in our Object of the Week series in a post titled In Memoriam.

This object was donated by Paul F. Walter. It is credited Gift of Paul F. Walter.

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Its dimensions are

H x W: 37.8 x 37.8 cm (14 7/8 x 14 7/8 in.)

Cite this object as

Handkerchief, In Memoriam; England; cotton; H x W: 37.8 x 37.8 cm (14 7/8 x 14 7/8 in.); Gift of Paul F. Walter; 2008-21-1

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Maira Kalman Selects.

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Handkerchief, In Memoriam |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=28 September 2022 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>