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Object Name Satchel
Date 1840-1870
Description Leather and needlepoint "carpet bag" with a short handle and a lockable metal clasp with key. Embroidered in shades of red, black, and gold with decorative patterns and the initials of Sydney Howard Gay.

The type of needlework used on this bag is known as Berlin wool work, named for the city credited with its origin. The front of the bag has a central oblong panel with initials "S.H.G." in black stitches outlined with gold thread on a red background, surrounded by an overall geometric pattern in black and two shades of red. On the back, the embroidered design has the same geometric pattern in the center, surrounded by a rectangular border in black and gold on a red background, with the geometric pattern continuing beyond the border to the outer edges. The stitches used include cross stitch, Leviathan stitch (also called Smyrna stitch) and backstitch. The thread is wool except for the gold colored thread which is silk.

The end gussets and bottom of the bag are leather; the opening is framed with leather-covered metal and the handle is a leather strap connected to the frame by metal rings. An impressed inscription, possibly "A McDONALD BOSTON", appears on the interior edge. The lockable clasp appears to be brass or brass plated and is decorated with incised stars; it has an inscription on the reverse "R Neumann" (with another inscription above, now damaged, which may have read "Patent / B. ST.") A key is suspended from a string attached to one end of the handle, and a small paper tag is inscribed, "Father's / worsted / bag."
Acquisition Gift of Mrs. Otis Kidwell Burger and Dr. Allyn Kidwell
Ownership and History This bag was reportedly used by noted abolitionist Sydney Howard Gay (1814-1888) during anti-slavery speaking tours of southern states. In 1842, Gay became a lecturer for the American Anti-Slavery Society. In 1844 he was made editor of the official publication of the New York abolitionists, the National Anti-Slavery Standard. He later wrote for the New York Tribune and served as its managing editor during the Civil War. In later years he also served as managing editor of the Chicago Tribune and the New York Evening Post.

Sydney Howard Gay became a resident of Livingston, Staten Island in 1848 and lived there for the rest of his life. He was a key figure in underground railroad activity in New York, and his "Record of Fugitives" survives in the library of Columbia University.
Earliest Date 1840
Latest Date 1870
Subjects Luggage
Lexicon Sub-category Personal Gear
Associated People Gay, Sydney Howard
Catalog Number 86.022.0002
Support Acknowledgment Online Collections Database record made possible by the Efron family in memory of Dr. Meryl Efron, December 2015.
Legal Status Images and text in this database are copyrighted by the Staten Island Historical Society unless otherwise noted. Items represented here are from the collections of the Staten Island Historical Society. Materials reproduced for personal non-commercial use must credit the Staten Island Historical Society. Commercial licensing is available.