Prison Purses and Wallets

Prison Art Woven Cigarette Pack is Folk Art is a collectible from the 1920’s thru the 1950’s.  If you think it is a funny term or never heard of it, you will find this article interesting.

Back in the 1920’s and 1950’s weaving items was a way for idle inmates to pass time, hence the prison art term was born. Leftover cellophane wrappers became the material that was used when the cigarettes had been smoked.  These were woven from any brand that the inmates had available.  They were arranged in colorful panels and woven in an array of patterns.

Wallets and purses were made to give to their family and friends.  Wallets were quick and easy and the inmate did not have to have a lot of the packs. These had slots for cash and 2 pockets for I.D.. and photographs. Large purses and pocketbooks were also made.  Cigarette packs that were used included Pall Malls, Camels, Kools and Lucky Strikes.

Above are pictures of recently sold pieces on icollect247.com.  A hand-printed note inside of the wallets stated that they had been made in the 1920s by an inmate at the old Virginia State Penitentiary on Spring St. in Richmond.  Mint pieces, like the above, are hard to find.  Kind of reminds me of “Tramp Art”.

 

 

2 thoughts on “Prison Purses and Wallets

  1. I have a Camel cigarette wallet made in 1959 that is more stunning than any of yours; and its still in perfect condition. Just curious; what would a Camel head wallet be worth?

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    1. Great piece. While some folks can adore they are a little hard to sell. The ones that were shown had the background with them including the prison. Price around $75 to $100. I hope this helps. Irene Davis

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