Object Thursday: A Band Box for Boxing Day

Elsewhere in the world, it’s Boxing Day, the uniquely British Commonwealth holiday when servants and working people received Christmas boxes from their employers. Celebrated on St. Stephen’s day, across the British Commonwealth December 26th is recognized as a bank holiday. We’re celebrating today with a fabulous band box or hat box from the RIHS Museum Collection.

Bandbox with "Providence River" block printed paper, early 19th century. RIHS Museum Collection
Bandbox with “Providence River” block printed paper, early 19th century. RIHS Museum Collection
Made of pasteboard in the early 19th century and covered with a wood block-printed paper, this box could have held a hat or bonnet. As it happens, there is a very similar box for sale at a shop in Pennsylvania, proving that all roads really do lead to Providence.
What I find particularly interesting is the difference in coloration. The box in Pennsylvania has a dark ground, which is typical, while our box has a light ground.
Detail, bandbox with Providence River blockprint paper.  Early 19th century. RIHS Museum Collection
Detail, bandbox with “Providence River” block printed paper, early 19th century. RIHS Museum Collection
Perhaps our box was a proof, or perhaps there were more ‘colorways’ for prints in the past than we previously thought. It’s always a treat to find another object similar to one we have, and to see the variation on themes so typical of Rhode Island artifacts. (Think “ships.”)
If you’d like your own bandbox, you can make your own! There are guidebooks available, and the process is fairly simple. If you’re not up to sewing together your own box, you could always cover a pre-made box from the craft store. It’s a good way to use and display wallpaper samples and fragments. In 1912, the New York Times certainly thought bandboxes were worth bringing back.

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