Thursday, February 7, 2013

An army of handkerchiefs: Avec armes et bagages dans un mouchoir de poche

"Il ne fallait donc pas se moucher dedans!"
"So I oughten't have used it to blow my nose!"

photo: St Tyl
 Mouchoir: linge de poche, ou vêtement de cou. (...) Les mouchoirs de cou, autrement dit fichus, se font en matières très differentes, depuis l'indienne et la soie jusqu'a la gaze, la blonde et la dentelle. C'est une des parties essentielles de la parure.
Handkerchief: pocket linen or clothing for the neck. Kerchiefs may be made in very different materials, from cotton indiennes to silk  and gauze, 
orris and lace. 
It is one of the essential parts of attire.
Dictionnaire universel du commerce, de la banque, et des manufactures...1838-1841

 photo St Tyl
"Handkerchief" comes from the French word couvre-chief, head covering. Hand-headcovering? Let's not even consider headkerchief and neckerchief.

Pictured above: "Le medecin dans la poche." 
Very handy indeed!

Avec armes et bagages dans un mouchoir de poche 
is an exhibit about printed handkerchiefs as used in the army.

photo St Tyl

Aretes et os dans le gosier
Fish and other bones in the gullet

photo St Tyl

Coups à la tête  -  Douleurs de dents
Blows to the head  -  Tooth aches

photo St Tyl

 Mouchoir des connaissances utiles/ handkerchief of useful knowledge

detail: "How to remove old rust stains from linen and cotton fabrics"

photo St Tyl

"Sizing for cloth of wool, silk, gauze and other articles of the sort"

photo St Tyl

"How to recognize if a wool cloth contains cotton" 

The humble handkerchief as a societal phenomena. This exhibit shows just how important this ordinary little item could be in the context of soldiering and its use as means of communication before being supplanted by films for the enlisted. Of the mutiple intentions and uses - historic, commemorative, fashion accessory, first aid supply, article of hygiene-  I've chosen to show the instructive side of these little squares of cloth.  

If we were to transport them into a fuller context of society, we might speak of gesture, modesty, flirtatiousness, theatrics, affectation, romantic souvenirs.... Snif...anyone have a Kleenex?


  1. asphyxie par charbon! how very handy this handkerchief could be!

    did you know that the american term "redneck" comes from w. virginia coal miners wearing red bandannas around their necks to show solidarity with the union movement?

    my sole humble contribution to hankie lore!

  2. Mlle, thank you for passing that along. That expression has always been a mystery!