1920s Spanish Style Tooled Handbag

This little clutch handbag is a recent addition to my collection.  I’d been looking for this style bag for sometime, and while they are quite common, the condition is usually pretty rough, and prices can be a bit high.

For years I’d see these and think they were pretty much circa 1900 due to the combined influences of Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts.  But then I would see them occasionally in 1920s photos.  Finally, as I was looking through a 1929 Sears catalog, I spotted a whole page of them for sale.

It seems odd that a bag that looks so much of a slightly earlier time could date squarely in the middle of what we think of as the Art Deco period.  It just goes to show that styles don’t always start and stop according to historical timelines.

I’m not sure when the style got started, but it was probably Edwardian in origin.  This particular bag has a frame that has a patent number and date.  The patent number is illegible, but the date the patent was approved was May 15, 1917.  So my bag was made after that date, and most likely in the mid 1920s due to the bit of Art Deco influence on the frame.  Anyone know when they first put that little hand or glove strap on the back of clutches?

The patent is probably for the locking mechanism.  You have to turn the fob to the reverse in order to open the bag.     I was never able to find the patent with just my guessing the keyword and by using the dates.  I’ll keep trying, of course.

The maker of the bag was Justin Leather Works Company.  Could this be the maker of Justin Boots?  I have an email in to the company, and I’m hoping to get a response.   The truth is, some companies are very interested in their history and are eager to share it with collectors, but other frankly do not care about the past and do not respond to inquiries of this sort.  I’ll soon find out which kind of company Justin happens to be.

And finally, I’ve got a selection of similar bags from a 1929 Montgomery Wards catalog.  There is a close up of a bag that has a locking fob.  In their description it is called a turn loc and I have seen examples with turn loc engraved on the back of the fob, though mine does not have it.

As always, I’d appreciate any insights you may have to share.


Filed under Collecting, Vintage Clothing

7 responses to “1920s Spanish Style Tooled Handbag

  1. Oh this is utterly marvelous!!



  2. the floral detail is fantastic. curious to see if it is related to the justin boot company, keep us posted!


  3. interesting. I too thought those Art Nouveau designs made the bags earlier-funny to think they are from the 20’s!


  4. What a stunning little bag and love the glove strap! Hope you get a reply from Justin Boots! Vintage Bag Lover


  5. Thanks everyone.

    And I’ve received a reply from the Justin Archives manager. She is very new at the job, but did some quick research and found that yes, Justin Boots did make handbags dating back to at least 1915, and continued to do so through 1979-80.

    I’m happy to report that Justin does have an active archive department, and that the department is responsive to historic requests.

    The company also has much of their production in the USA.


  6. And even more info from the very helpful archive manager at Justin: In 1915 Justin patented the twist lock.


  7. Amanda

    I picked up something similar at an auction and was curious to learn more about it. Thank you for sharing this info. Very interesting! Mine has a small thin handle and two birds on the front with the same Justin stamp inside. Very beautiful pieces!


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