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 Silver Jubilee was not celebrated as it fell within a year of Prince Albert’s death in 1861. Perhaps the Golden Jubilee in 1887 was celebrated all the more enthusiastically because the Queen had been a virtual recluse since that time, in deep mourning, and images of her were widely sought. The Queen herself distributed mugs with her likeness to schoolchildren as part of the celebration.
The 1887 Jubilee handkerchief is a carefully composed and finely printed design that conveys a rich amount of information. It features portraits of the royal family as well as of the prime ministers who had served Queen Victoria, and also shows miniature scenes of the Queen enacting her duties. The quality of the piece is excellent.
This kerchief is proposed for acquisition along with other souvenir fabrics, including a kerchief printed for the Diamond Jubilee in 1887 and a memorial kerchief printed after the Queen’s death. 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
Paul F. Walter.
It is credited
Gift of Paul F. Walter.
Its dimensions are
Frame H x W: 59.1 x 59.1 cm (23 1/4 x 23 1/4 in.) Textile H x W: 50.2 x 50.2 cm (19 3/4 x 19 3/4 in.)
Cite this object as
Handkerchief (England); cotton; Frame H x W: 59.1 x 59.1 cm (23 1/4 x 23 1/4 in.) Textile H x W: 50.2 x 50.2 cm (19 3/4 x 19 3/4 in.); Gift of Paul F. Walter; 2008-21-3