Thursday, October 10, 2019

History of the Handkerchief

No one knows quite when people began carrying squares of cloth for use in drying sweating foreheads or wiping runny noses. Writings from Roman times and accounts of Richard II of England (1377-1389) mention their use.  Renaissance paintings show people carrying white cloths. At first it was mainly the upper classes who used handkerchiefs for expressing approval or for flirting in addition to their utilitarian purposes. As textile production industrialized, more and more people could afford a handkerchief.

Men's handkerchiefs are typically rather plain squares of cotton, linen or silk with perhaps a simple border or an initial.
Men's linen handkerchief with initial
Women's handkerchiefs were often more elaborate, with embroidery, lace edging or cut work.
Women's handkerchief
Women's handkerchief
Printed handkerchiefs, sometimes made to commemorate certain events or places became popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. This one was a souvenir of the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915.
1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition Commemorative Hankie
As in so many other things, the use of handkerchiefs began to change during the circa 1920 period.  The reason was the Kimberly Clark Company's introduction of paper tissues ( Kleenex) in 1924.  A  package of 100 sheets cost 65cents. Pop-up cartons were introduced in 1928. This dispenser is a wall-mounted unit from a doctor's office.
Metal Kleenex box cover
Originally the company marketed them as a substitute towel for removing cold cream ad makeup.  But consumer surveys found that people were actually using them as disposable handkerchiefs. They company changed its marketing to emphasize this use, saying “Don't carry a cold in your pocket,” and sales doubled in a year. 

 By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

WWII Draft Lottery Capsule

Last week Mary Gallagher, Benton County Museum's Collections Manager, asked me to research the artifact pictured below.
This small capsule played a big role in the lives of many men during the 1940s.  In 1940, anticipating the the United States would be drawn into the war, Congress passed the Selective Training and Service Act.  It required all men ages 21 to 36 to register with their local selective service board by October 16, 1940.  Each was assigned a number from 1 to 9000 (though only numbers 1 to 7836 were actually used).  Each number was written on a paper and inserted into an opaque blue capsule.  At a ceremony in Washington, D.C. Secretary of War Henry Stimson was blindfolded with a strip of linen taken from the upholstery of a chair which sat in Independence Hall at signing of  the Constitution. He then stirred the bowl of capsules with a wooden spoon made from part of an Independence hall beam and drew out a capsule containing the number 158.  Men who held that number and passed the medical exam were drafted into the military.  Local boards could exempt some who were needed in war industries or for care of dependents. Additional men were drafted in the order in which their numbers had been drawn.

A second and lottery were held in July 1941 for those who had turned 21 since October 1940.  Officials chose red capsules for that lottery.  The capsule in the picture has faded to coral but it was one used in the second lottery.

Another was held in March, 1942 and included all men under the 46 who had not already registered.  That lottery used green capsules. 

A similar draft had been used during World War I.  The system continued in used until the United States switched to an all volunteer military in 1973.  The lottery was made a bit simpler by basing the selection on birthday, cutting down the number of capsules to be filled and mixed.

 By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon