Monday, 31 January 2011

Learning Something New

If there is one thing that I like better than buying a thimble, it's finding out more about it. Where it was made, what it was made from, has it got signs of use.  The history behind every thimble is just fascinating.

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a lady who was keen to find out about a thimble that she had inherited. The thimble had been passed down through the female line for at least three generations.

There wasn't too much to go on, but using the little bits that she had sent through and my trusty research tool, the internet, I was able to track down the thimble's origins.

The thimble was from Taxco in Mexico and very similar to the one shown here.  Now, up until that point I hadn't heard of Taxco so researching the information for her was an absolute joy. It opened up a whole new world of thimbles that I didn't know existed.

Back in the 1920s an American called William Spratling moved to Taxco de Alarcon in Mexico.  He found out that the area had once had a thriving silver industry thanks to the ample supply of silver deposits.

In the 1930s he set up workshops and began teaching the art of silversmithing to apprentices from the local area.  Once trained, the apprentices could go on to set up their own jewellery workshops to continue their new trade.   The silver industry and the economy of the area was rejuvenated. 

I managed to purchase my own Taxco thimble on Ebay last week. As the picture above shows, it has an all over decorative filigree design and is also stamped with the following markings:

The circle in the centre reads "Sterling, Taxco, Mexico".  The initials in the centre are the maker's mark.  I'm not sure what the splodge is to the right of the circle as its too small to decipher properly. So I'll give it my best guess and say that it could be the eagle mark.  If it is, then it would date this thimble to between 1948 and the 1970s, ish or thereabouts. 

Unfortunately, the drawback of buying thimbles second hand is that you don't tend to find out the human side of the story.  I don't know if this one was ever handed down from mother to daughter, or even if the daughter used it to learn sewing at her mother's knee.  One thing I do know is that the lady who contacted me has a very precious link to her own personal history through her thimble.  A link which is just simply priceless.  

Bye for now


Sunday, 9 January 2011

Advertising Thimbles

There have been lots of different ways of advertising products or services over the years.  These days the most powerful methods are probably the television and the internet. Both tend to get taken for granted and its hard for us living in a technology driven world to imagine what life was like before the internet or even the good old Telly.

The first electronically transmitted television pictures were sent in 1926 but it wasn't until much later, probably the 1950s/1960s when most households would be able to get a TV.  The world wide web has only been in public use since the 1990s. 

Now advertising has been around a lot longer than that, so what did people use? Newspapers?  Radio?  Well, why not pop your product on a thimble?

This thimble is brass and has the wording "Use Hudson's Soaps" right around the base.  The vertical lines surrounding the wording, could indicate that this was possibly made by Charles Iles of Birmingham, a thimble maker who specialised in base metals.

 Now, I think this is quite clever advertising. What better way to highlight your product then by popping it on an item used to possibly mend or make a piece of clothing which would need washing at some point.  What do you need to wash clothes - soap, or in this case dry soap powder.  Hudson's was founded by Robert Spear Hudson in 1837.  He began grinding down the course soap available at the time to make finer flakes. Today, we would know this product as washing powder.   Hudson's Soap was eventually sold to Lever Brothers in 1908, who in turn merged with Margarine Unie and became Unilever in 1930.  The name Hudson's was in use until 1935. 

 Just goes to show that advertising is always at it's best when it's simple but effective!

Bye for Now