A German-American Evening Bag Fit for a Soirée

As I think about the fall season, the start of the school year, Labor Day, the autumnal equinox, and Goose Day, they lead me to think of Oktoberfest–a holiday created in Munich, but also observed throughout the world to celebrate Bavarian and German culture. Soon after Oktoberfest is German-American Day. While you might think it has something to do with Oktoberfest, October 6 was selected because it is the anniversary of the 1683 founding of Germantown, Pennsylvania by Dutch settlers. This is all just a good reminder that we live in a multicultural world, and that the people who celebrate Oktoberfest probably also celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day.

Watumull Bag

Beaded evening bag, Walborg Corporation, mid-20th century, Silk, glass beads, brass, rhinestones, Gift of Mrs. Indru Watumull, 1998 (8982.1)

German-American Day reminds me that we have a wonderful German-American evening bag in the collection. It is a beaded evening bag by the Walborg Corporation of New York City and based on the label, was made in West Germany between 1951 and 1963.

This lovely purse, entirely covered with red glass beads, is a style that was very popular in the 1950s. It is lined with maroon silk satin and has a very small pocket which holds the Walborg label, and reads “Made in W. Germany by hand Walborg.” For practicality, it has a beaded 12-inch handle. For the closure, it has a brass kiss clasp whose knobs are inset with clear faceted rhinestones. Previously, when women made their own accessories, a beaded bag was a showcase of their skill and workmanship. Later, it evolved as a status symbol, due to the cost of materials and intensive labor required to make a beaded bag.

Hilde Kahn Weinberg (1904–1976) founded the Walborg Corporation in 1951 and was chief designer. Walborg was a manufacturer and importer of high-fashion handbags. The bags were designed by Weinberg in New York City and manufactured overseas in Europe and later Asia; she received honors from Belgium, Italy, and Hungary for her role in developing international markets.

This fine evening bag was gifted to the museum by Mrs. Indru Watumull in 1998. We can only imagine all the lovely parties, events, and soirées this bag was witness to.

—E. Tory Laitila, Curator of Textiles and Fashion