Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The EDC of 1800s: Pocket carry of the Victorian and Edwardian Era

One of the aspects I enjoy the most about survival and preparedness is research. I’ve always enjoyed reading and learning, especially when it comes to topics that fascinate me.
Sometimes the study of survival takes you to some very dark places. Human nature can be benevolent and magnanimous, but also cruel and evil. Shootings, massacres, genocide, large scale disasters, it can get depressing. Sometimes my wife walks by, catches a glimpse of a video or a photo and as she keeps walking she says “I don’t know how you can do this all day long, every day”.
Maybe this is why I like learning about interesting gear so as to catch a break. Knives, guns and lights are maybe the most popular category, but for me the true gems are learning what other people carry, and most of all, what others USED. I find it interesting to learn about trinkets and possessions carried by historical figures as well as what was used and carried by previous generations, from prehistoric times to more recent ones. History is just full of lessons, with the added value of being actual empirical, time-proven ones.

Some time ago I found myself looking for information regarding my favourite type of strike-anywhere matches, Swan Vestas. Back in the day, Vesta meant matches. You didn’t have a match box in the late 1800 or early 1900s, you had a Vesta case. If you had a few bucks and good taste, you had a sterling silver Vesta case with you initials engraved on it. These would have some kind of striking surface, usually in the bottom of the case. You see, matches were used constantly, every day. You used them to start fires in the kitchen, to turn on lamps, lanterns, candles and heaters. Every household would have a table top or countertop box of matches, but you also carried around some yourself. Certain models also included a retractable wick cord wick could be used to light lanterns or start fires when the match alone wasn’t enough.
And cash was King… even +100 years ago.
Another interesting trinket was the Sovereign holder.

This was kept in a pocket, sometimes as a pendant or at the end of an Albert chain, along with keys or a pocket watch. The sovereign holder was used to carry sovereign gold coins. Some models had two compartments, one for a full sovereign and another for a half sovereign coin. The Sovereign holder was more of a luxury item. Silver coins which were more commonly used were carried in coin purses or ordinary pouches.

This vesta case includes a sovereign holder as well as a stamp holder
Whistles and other Fobs.
Another favourite item to have was a whistle. Used for everything from signalling workers to calling for help when a crime was begin committed, a whistle was another popular keychain fob of the period. This was about the same time when whistles gained popularity among law enforcement so having a whistle was somewhat of a self-defense item as well.

Sometimes cases combined different uses. A Vesta box could have a compartment for coins, or stamps or snuff (tobacco). Albert chains could also include a few silver coins as a fob, but also as a way of carrying some valuables without risking losing them.
In the case of women, the Chatelaine chain was where all the important house keys were kept, doors, trunks, pantry, etc, but also attached to it where sewing kits, scissors, vesta cases, pens, whistles and other utensils.
Of course people carried other important items as well. No self-respecting man would be without a pocket knife of some sort, maybe a pipe and a tobacco pouch. Pocket pistols, canes, pocket watches, hats, glasses, handkerchiefs and pill boxes, EDC has always existed in one form or another.I find it interesting how many of the priorities still remain: A knife of course, but also the ability to start fires and even a good amount of cash was as important to have back in those days as it is today.
Fernando “FerFAL” Aguirre is the author of “The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse” and “Bugging Out and Relocating: When Staying is not an Option”.


Anonymous said...

Men also wore coats with lots of deep pockets. My paternal Grandfather wore chino pants and long sleeved shirts buttoned all the way to the top. He considered the sight of the top of your undershirt to be slovenly :^)

Grandfather watch on chain on right side, went in right pants pocket (I never knew what make it was) and a Kabar pen knife in the left pocket. I still have that knife - it is worn down, but still very usable.

Happy New Year Fernando and others !

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for this post. great to see that every society, every age has had it's edc. the vestas reminded me of the ones my grandparents had. I had forgotten about them, I played with them as a small child. Thank you for those precious lost memories. Annie

Linda said...

A very fascinating and enjoyable post. Thank you so much for sharing, and Happy 2016!