From the Perkasie Historical Society Museum Collection; a hand-embroidered handkerchief with 77 signatures.
Some historians believe the handkerchief originated in China, and was first used to shield a person’s head from the hot sun. Some Statues dating as far back as 1000 BC( Chou dynasty) show figures holding decorative pieces of cloth. Christian tradition links the handkerchief to the Shroud of Turin. A handkerchief is identified as a hemmed square of thin fabric which can be carried in the pocket or handbag, used for personal hygiene purposes such as wiping one's hands or face, or blowing one's nose. A handkerchief is also sometimes used as a purely decorative accessory in a suit pocket; it is then called a pocket square.
In researching the signatures of our handkerchief, we identified many of the names as Perkasie High School students; one person from the class of 1903, the entire class of 1906 (all 5), 7 of the 8 for the class of 1907 and 8 of the 9 for the class of 1909, and 1910 being the last year. This leads us to believe there it was a school related relationship among the people represented by signature on the handkerchief. It seems to have been mostly a group of young people from Perkasie, ranging from 16 to 21 years of age, about the right span for the years given.
As there were a good number of other signatures, looking further, we recognize them as many of these young people would go on to become the business and civic leaders of the community; Angeny, Benner, Cressman, Freed, Hendricks, Kramer, Moyer, Neamand, Rickert, Sine, Sprenkle, Void and others. While there is no provenance on the handkerchief’s creation, nor specific intent or owner, we were able to document some familial relationships. Further searching local digitized newspapers produced 12-13 handkerchief party notices, mostly birthday. Hanky showers for birthday celebrations were very popular in the early 1900’s. Each person would bring or send a card enclosing a hanky.
In comparing the newspaper notices with the handkerchief names there is no conclusive evidence to associate the handkerchief with a specific occasion or person.
We reached out to Ann Mahony a respected historian and member of the Textile Arts Council at San Francisco’s de Young Museum to learn more about vintage handkerchiefs and handkerchief parties. It’s clear folks individually signed the handkerchief, and someone took the time to meticulously stitch the signatures in various colors.
In the “Reading American History Through Handkerchiefs” article in the “Accidental Collector: Handkerchief Heroes”, COURTESY ANN MAHONY, what most people consider a charming, and at times, useful accessory also reflects sociocultural history. Hankies, she says, offer a “perfect reflection” of what concerned and entertained people at the time. . .” It is clear, fellowship, family and friends are valued.
This handkerchief, passed down through the Void family, was donated it to the Perkasie Historical Society. We are pleased to have this vintage handkerchief as part of our collection.
Thanks to the help of our museum volunteers and especially Judy Moyer Pezzanite, who have researched possible connections, we have listed the names identified on the hanky.
Sharing interesting connections between Perkasie's people, places and events.