learn more about thimbles with slogans
I have always been fascinated with slogans, mementoes, inscriptions, mottos or keepsake messages on thimbles, with sayings using the language of love and chivalry or religious mottoes from the middle ages. It was only when I acquired my first MIZPAH thimble, that I began to look at these thimbles with lettering around the rims, more closely. Mizpah is a Hebrew blessing "May the Lord watch between me and thee whilst we are absent one from another" [Genesis 31.v49]
Go back in time, when women were closely chaperoned, to the Victorian era and picture a young man in love. How was he to plead his love? A gift of a thimble with a word or phrase was not too personal and if it was accepted, he knew he could then pay suit. So we get a glimpse of this bygone era and its manners with these unique themed thimbles. Some of these tokens of love were given when parting and there may be several sad stories attached to a few of these messages.
By sheer serendipity when paging thru von Hoelle, on p296 I noticed his list of these inscriptions for the first time. So that's where this listing began and then I included those from Holmes from p180 and Zalkin p83-5. Di Pelham Burn produced a list of brass messages in the May 1999 issue of At Your Fingertips. With your help, I have now tracked over - with your help - 159 different slogans or mottos. Where there is no photo, I have included where the reference was found.
My perception of slogan thimbles was that they were Victorian and made of brass, with a few made of silver. Now I know they were made mainly of silver, closely followed by brass. The earlier taller silver and brass or bronze thimbles from the era of James I [Jacobean] from the 1600s, bring messages from that time of chivalry and religious life - and strange old spellings or lettered in Latin! They are distinctive for their strapwork designs, their messages on the 17th century thimbles have now passed into oblivion.
The slogan thimbles are mostly English and produced mainly in the Victorian era. French has always been associated with the language of love, so there is a small collection of French slogans, followed by those in German and Spanish, with one or two in Italian, Norwegian and Dutch. I have included slogans from all countries, all periods, in all languages [including a rough translation - if I have gone wrong, please help]. The only example I have not included is for 'Souvenir' which tho very prolific, doesn't have the romantic implications of this thematic study. The most popular slogan is FORGET-ME-NOT: at February 2014 that numbers 55.
I have ignored all capitals for the slogans - and they are filed alphabetically by the first word of the slogan - even when this is the French word "Le ...", which is usually ignored in alphabetical listings.
The material ranges from silver to tombac and brass but I have only seen two gold slogan thimbles [not many were made in case she didn't accept his thimble?] At the other end of the metal spectrum, I have only come across a few of aluminium and one plastic slogan thimble. Many of the brass thimbles were late 19th C and probably made by Birmingham's Charles Iles. As most of the silver thimbles were made pre-1884 when hallmarking for thimbles came into force in England, it is nearly impossible to know when these thimbles were made or who they were made by. The lettering is usually in upper case, plain letters, but Gothic lettering was also quite popular.
I have also included the gold REGARD thimble - there is no lettering, rather the setting of six gemstones around the rim spells out the word Regard. Recently a 2nd one of this type emerged with DEAREST, created using 7 stones, tho no lettered message.
With this subject already being such a big one, I have not included many slogan thimbles from the late 20th century [ie the Franklin Mint set], nor those made in reproduction. These replica thimbles of the 20th century are made mainly of pewter, tho there are a few in silver, like those made in 1986 by Charterhouse Mint. Political and advertising slogans are also out of the scope of this small study.
In the Museum of Sydney, Bridge Street, Sydney, there was a display in 1999 of base metal and brass thimbles excavated from The Rocks area. Where these thimbles have a message, I have noted this with the description.
I notice that on some of the early silver thimbles - from 16th century - the slogan is lettered upside down. Was this so that the sewer could read the message whilst she stitched, as the message would be facing her?
Three facets of Victorian life were FAITH - HOPE - CHARITY. This darling little boxed brass set of thimbles by Charles Iles, has a set of these values or slogans. Traditionally these also had symbols: faith by a cross - hope by an anchor - and charity by a heart.
I have only come across two examples of a slogan thimble where a Rebus image is used: where a pictogram is used instead of words.
See "Stick to me" and "Tho absent I..."!
Have you ever been given a slogan thimble from a loved one?
Click on the following link to "Learn more about..."
This listing of Thimbles with Slogans does not purport to be complete or accurate in all aspects.
Rather it invites comment and contribution to add to our knowledge.
My thanks to the contributors.
Christina Bertrand Brass thimbles (TCI) 1986
Frederique Crestin-Billet La folie des Des a Coudre 2003
Cecile Dreesman Een vingerhoedje...A thimble full 1983
Edwin Holmes History of thimbles 1985
Magdalena and William Isbister The "merchant's warehouse" fable TCI Bulletin spring 2007
Molly Pearce – Queen Adelaide At Your Fingertips spring 2018. p9-12
Diane Pelham Burn Brass message thimbles At Your Fingertips 15/1, May 1999; 15/2, Sept 1999
Brian Read Metal sewing-thimbles found in Britain 2018
Norma Spicer Another rare and unusual thimble Stick to me TCI Bulletin spring 2006
The Thimble Society [of London] catalogues
John von Hoelle Thimble collector’s encyclopedia 3rd ed. 1986
Estelle Zalkin Zalkin’s handbook of thimbles & sewing implements 1988
Bernadine Biske | Carolyn | Sue Christensen | Steve Cocker | Sylvie Collett | Kit Froebel | Helga Hill | C Hunt | William Isbister | Friedy Kamp | Caroline Meacham-Elegants Arts
Ray Nimmo | Ro Olbricht | Di Pelham Burn | Molly Pearce | Brian Read | Linda Samaripa | Irene Schwall | Norma Spicer | Steve | Joanna Waciorski-Sew Many Bits | Dan Walbrun Mickey Walbrun | Sue Wilson
© Sue Gowan
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