Saturday, March 25, 2017

Culture: An "old bag" with fresh insights

The recent discovery in a Chicago theater of a 1930s clutch purse is a time-capsule glimpse into a night out for a Depression-era young woman. The little red bag’s contents, as reported by, were limited to a rosary, a pen, two tubes of lipstick, a still nearly full bottle of liquid foundation, Anacin (modern-day Advil) and a Kelvyn Park pin (which refers to a public park and high school in Chicago’s Hermosa neighborhood).

The contents of women’s handbags still fascinate us. Lifestyle sites make a lot out of handbag and tote bag contents and sometimes focus on what the style of the bag itself says about its user as this Refinery 29 quiz does. “What’s in my purse” is a Pinterest board. US Weekly lets us peak in celebrity bags. Cosmopolitan has a quiz about what bag contents say about their owner (me, a hoarder, what?).

Tech site Verge used to feature a “What’s in your bag?” column for men and women to reveal its staff’s gadget must-haves and more. Writer Katie Drummond had some stand-out items that would not have been found in a woman’s bag in the 1930s: “Do you want skin cancer?” she wrote. “No? Then put sunscreen in your bag. I also wear this men’s antiperspirant, because it’s called Power Rush, and I think everyone should start their day with such a feeling.” Back in 1930s, only 24% of American women were employed, according to the U.S. Census, versus 57% today.
As for that 1930s purse, it was recently ”excavated” inside the 1920s-era Congress Theater’s air circulation chamber (called a plenum) by urban archaeologist Eric Nordstrom, who recycles and resells historic objects, DNAInfo said. A $50 million redevelopment is now planned for the Logan Square-area former theater into commercial space, residential units and possibly hotel rooms. Nordstrom is hoping to reconnect with the purse owner’s family using names in her address book.

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