Enid Collins of Texas Handbags

Several years ago I had the privilege to talk with Jeep Collins, the son of handbags designer and maker, Enid Collins.  The interview is in the archive here at The Vintage Traveler, but I also had written a short article about Collins and hints on how to place a date on the bags she made.  So, you may have already read this post, as I’ve taken it from my website, fuzzylizzie.com.  More about that at the bottom of the post.

To many American women and girls from the 1950s through the early 1970s, the Enid Collins bag was a “must have” fashion accessory.  These bags were fun fashion, and were the perfect handbag for a casual ensemble.  And the very features that made the bags so popular then, look just right with today’s eclectic approach to dressing.

“Port of Call” bag, courtesy of Maggie Wilds

Enid Collins was a Texas rancher’s wife, and she started making canvas and leather bags in the late 1940s in order to help her family make ends meet. At first her bags were sold in the gift shops of nearby dude ranches, but when Dallas department store Neiman Marcus placed an order, the Collins family found themselves in the handbag business.

Enid and her husband Frederic opened a factory in their town of Medina, Texas to produce their canvas totes. By 1958, they had eighty employees and had opened a retail outlet in Medina.  They also started a plant to construct the wooden boxes for their latest product, the box bag.  In 1966 another factory was opened in Puerto Rico. Wooden box bags decorated with papier-mâché were made in that factory. This operation was closed in 1968.

In 1970, Enid Collins sold her business with the copyrights to her designs to the Tandy Corporation.  She continued worked for Tandy for about a year before leaving the company.  Tandy continued to make Enid Collins designs through the early 1970s.  They eventually sold the company.  Enid Collins died in 1990.

Hints for Identifying and Dating Collins Bags

Outside ec signature on 1960s bag

Inside signature on 1960s box bag

Because the Enid Collins bags were so popular, there were many imitators. Bags produced during the time Enid and her family owned the company are marked ec on the outside of the bag. You will also find the name of the bag printed on the outside. The interior is usually marked “Enid Collins Original” and “Collins of Texas”, and often there is the galloping horse logo.

From a 1960s box bag

From a 1960s box bag

There are other ways that the bags were sometimes marked. There was a sun logo, and sometimes, the bags were marked on the bottom of the outside, instead of the inside.

Boxes were sometimes dated, and if you are really lucky, you’ll find one that has a handwritten signature by Ms. Collins, as she did frequent promotional signings. In order for your bag to be from the 1950s or 1960s, you should find Enid Collins’s name or initials, or both, somewhere printed on the bag.

Interior of a 1970s box bag

Bags that were made after the Collins family sold the business in 1970 have the design name on the exterior. The Collins name and horse logo will be found either on the exterior or on the inside, but Enid’s name will not be on the bag.

1970s Flutterbye Box. Notice, there is no ec signature.

There are many different bag designs, and often several variations on the theme. Popular designs such as the Glitterbugs and Flutterbye were updated and changed with the different seasons. Popular trends affected the designs, such as the mid 1960s Love bags, and various Flower Power themed bags which were made to appeal to younger buyers. Today, some of the most popular designs are the ones based on animals, such as Sophistikit and Wise Guy.

 

Over the past few years I’ve been moving all the articles from my old Fuzzylizzie.com website to this blog.  Does anyone even make static websites any more?

At any rate, I’ve been wanting to change the focus of the website for some time now, and I have settled on an idea that I hope will turn out to make a site that is useful to the fashion history community.  Called The Vintage Traveler Antique and Vintage Photo Archive, it will be a site where my entire collection of photographs will be posted as a resource for others studying sports and travel in women’s dress of the twentieth century.

It will take time to get it all posted, and so will be a work in progress over the next year or two.  I’ll be posting links as soon as the first photos go online.

 

18 Comments

Filed under Designers, Vintage Clothing

18 responses to “Enid Collins of Texas Handbags

  1. Ruth

    Ohh–sounds exciting! I’ve loved your blog for a long time for the history and information you give on a part of fashion I’ve not read much about. Looking forward to this change!

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  2. I have two of the small box bags – one was a gift from a friend of my mother’s when I was about 15. I carried it to church for years. When my mother in law passed away I was delighted to find one in her closet and even more delighted when none of the three daughters wanted it. I am sure mine was purchased at Neiman Marcus where mother’s friend always loved to shop but I do not know the history of my other bag. My mother was also given one of the totes – I will have to check to see if she still has it. She and her friend are 93 and 94 years old and they have been friends since birth!!!!!

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  3. Jeep has his own line of jewelry and leather goods, too. And he is a lovely man. Has a store on Main Street on Fredericksburg, a town he also served as a school board member.

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  4. Leigh Ann

    I know about Jeep Collins and his jewelry line, from visits to the Hill Country. I had not heard of Enid Collins before. I am from West Texas, distant from Medina and even from Dallas. But I do remember those box style bags from my childhood, and even had one myself. I suspect it was a copy. I doubt if the family budget at that time would have run to boutique items or things from Neiman Marcus! I think my mom still has one. I’ll have to look at it. This was an interesting article, thanks.

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  5. Reading articles like this reminds me of how conservative the women in my family were about fashion. Nothing trendy like this in their closets.

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  6. Lizzie, you are a treasure to fashion historians everywhere!

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  7. Thank You as always Lizzie! I never knew who Enid Collins was-often wondered where the “trend” of these bags started. The early 60’s was well before my career time frame-however I remember these. In a earlier post you had a similar bag and remembered the decoupage on straw and basket styles.

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  8. Iinherited one of Enid’s purses from my Aunt’s estate, but in the end I gave it away and now, alas, I wish I had it. 🙂 – Karen

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  9. I really love the care and time you put into your writing as well as the throughness of your research. It’s a gift, and thank you for it. Hopefully inspirational to others who have a little piece of a story about american clothing design and manufacture; these are stories I want to hear and I don’t want to see be lost.

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