News Archive - June 2007
The Romans made the earliest thimbles and one found at Verulamium is on show at the museum in St. Albans. Thimbles are most usually made from metal, leather, rubber, wood, glass or china. Originally thimbles were used to push needles through fabric or leather, and particularly by sailors when making sails, but now thimbles are made for commemorative, advertising and decorative purposes.
In the 19th century many thimbles were made from silver and 'Dorcas' thimbles, made by Charles Horner, who had strengthened the soft metal by using a steel core covered inside and out with silver, are very popular with collectors. The Thimble Guild produces a monthly book for collectors with information on new and old thimbles.
As an example of the different types of thimble which have been produced, the first one Mrs. Appleby showed was one made of chalk, with a picture of the white cliffs of Dover on it, followed by one made of coal - showing a picture of a coal mine! The ingenuity of thimble makers became evident when she produced thimbles made of cane, crocheted yarn, wood (one particularly special one from Jerusalem made of olive wood) Indian wood with brass inlay, minute beads, enamel with wire, hand blown glass, varnished papier-mâché - the list seems endless. From the nineteenth century thimbles have been produced by the great porcelain makers - Wedgwood, Sevres, Limoge, Meissen.
It seems almost anything can be commemorated with a thimble - and Mrs. Appleby's collection proved it - royal occasions: the Queen's 80th birthday, Jubilee, the Princess of Wales Memorial Foundation: Counties; stamps and bank notes - a Penny Black 1840; a five pound note; important dates; Olympic Games 1948; V.E. Day, St. George's Day; the life of Richard Whiteley 1943-2005, and many many more. All beautifully decorated, and interesting to see how many different categories and events in our lives are recalled and remembered in this miniature way.
Collecting something small and interesting which can easily be displayed is an obvious advantage, but Mrs. Appleby did admit that the most difficult thing about her collection is the dusting!
Source: Focus, June 2007
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