Dell Bronson’s Porte-Monnaie

13 Sep

In The King’s Daughter, the heroine of the story is Miss Dell Bronson, a fashionable young lady, raised in the lap of Boston luxury by a wealthy aunt and uncle.

An antique porte-monnaie made of metal mesh

An antique porte-monnaie made of metal mesh

In writing about Dell, Isabella described her as dainty, neat, and graceful. Dell was always fashionably, but tastefully dressed; and because of her uncle’s wealth, Dell was able to afford the latest styles of dress and accessories.

A sterling silver porte-monnaie. It's long shape suggests it was carried in a pocket.

A sterling silver porte-monnaie. It’s long shape suggests it was ideal for carrying in a pocket.

One of Dell’s accessories was a porte-monnaie, which she carried in her skirt pocket.

A silver porte-monnaie, lined in blue leather. From Etsy.

A silver porte-monnaie, lined in blue leather. From Etsy.

 

The blue leather interior of the silver porte-monnaie features bellows to separate coin denominations. From Etsy.

The blue leather interior of the silver porte-monnaie features bellows to separate coin denominations. From Etsy.

Literally, a porte-monnaie was a place for money—specifically coins. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, men and women carried their paper money and coins separately. Paper bills were carried flat in wallets or bill-folds, but all the many coins in circulation at the time were usually carried in porte-monnaies.

A two-cent piece, in circulation until 1873. It was the first American coin to carry the motto, In God We Trust.

A two-cent piece, in circulation until 1873. It was the first American coin to carry the motto, In God We Trust.

And what a variety of coins there were! In addition to the pennies, dimes, nickels and quarters we know today, people commonly carried:

Two-cent pieces
Silver three-cent pieces
Three-cent pieces made from nickel
Half-dimes
Twenty-cent pieces
Half-dollars
Dollars

The three-cent piece, made of nickel, was in circulation until 1889.

The three-cent piece, made of nickel, was in circulation until 1889.

And gold coins (also known as Eagles) weren’t uncommon. They were minted in denominations of $1, $2.50, $5, $10, and $20.

Carried by both men and women, porte-monnaies were made of sturdy material, such as leather or silver. At home, women kept their porte-monnaie in the pocket of their skirt or apron. Outside the home, women would often tuck their porte-monnaie inside their purse or reticule.

Antique silver porte-monnaie. The center emblem has a space for engraving the initials of the owner. From Pinterest.

Antique silver porte-monnaie. The center emblem has a space for engraving the initials of the owner. From Pinterest.

Men kept a porte-monnaie in a desk drawer at home, and carried it in a pocket while out and about.

A French porte-monnaie made of mother-of-pearl, with brass and silver inlay. From Pinterest.

A French porte-monnaie made of mother-of-pearl, with brass and silver inlay. From Pinterest.

References to porte-monnaies date as far back as the 1850s but the term came into fashion during the American Civil War, when Americans considered anything French to be the height of fashion.

Which of the fashionable porte-monnaies pictured here do you think Dell Bronson would have carried? Cast your vote below

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