I had the opportunity to ask my 13 year old granddaughter what she had in her purse. She sent me an email with an extensive list. I shared this with an email group of 19th century historical writers for the simple pleasure of a chuckle. However, one person wondered what a 19th century woman might carry in her purse. So I began a search. First I found some purses.
Below are two examples from 1891:
The one above & below were created by Langfeld Brothers & Co. The purse above is for ladies' use. It has a spring catch, with loop soldered securely to the frame, and is an exceedingly strong, practical purse, easy to open and close. It is very attractive for the jobbing trade, and will no doubt have a wide sale. It is made in kid, grain and fancy leathers.
The second purse is also a ladies' purse and is 3.5 inches in depth. It has a solid frame, handsomely engraved on both sides, and the purse, which is leather lines, is made up in seal, kangaroo and lizard and also in cheaper leathers.
Above is a ladies pocketbook
Another purse design
Pocketbook & Purse Combination
And this one threw me a bit. Pocketbook & Card Set.
Now for the pure joy and another interesting tidbit. There were socials called Ladies Purse. Below is a description of one with the added insight from a Memoir of Adam Lindsay Gordon.
"At race times he generally rode where light weights were not required. We had at all these meetings—and there was one every year for each township—an event called the Ladies' Purse. This was a bag of fancy work, containing a very extensive and valuable assortment of articles, which the ladies of the district used to make up. It included all kinds of fancy work and embroidery, such as smoking caps, slippers, belts, purses, &c. Only gentlemen riders could contend for it, and these must be accepted by a ladies' committee formed of those who had worked for the bag. Gordon applied for permission to ride for this prize at one meeting, and was refused. He was much insulted at the refusal, but I don't think he said a word on the subject except to myself, and what he did say was very characteristic of the man. He remarked that I used to blame him for not mixing more with the people of the district, and said ironically that this would show what little he would gain by consorting with such society. It happened, moreover, that the coveted prize fell that year to the son of a squatter, who, a few years previously, had been a publican. It was quite a disappointment to the ladies' committee, who expected the bag to fall into the hands of one who was better known and much more admired. They gave a practical effect to their dissatisfaction by taking the most valuable things out of the bag before it was given to the winner. This Gordon knew, and his comments upon it were very cynical."