Whiting & Davis Corporation
Whiting and Davis was established in 1896 when Charles Whiting and Edward P. Davis bought out the Wade Davis Company. They began production of their famous metal mesh bags and changed the name of the company. In 1907, Whiting bought out Davis's interest in the company and incorporated, keeping the company name.
The Whiting & Davis application for trademark indicates they make "Metal Mesh Bags, comprised Wholly or in part of metal that is not precious, in All sizes and forms, both soldered and woven mesh." They give July 29, 1921 as the first use of their logo. The trademark was renewed 3 times, last in 1983. The cancellation of the trademark is dated June 21, 2003.
This rare "Moxie" advertising bag was sold at auction in 2003 for $4049.99. The bag measures 6 x 4" and, aside from tarnish on the frame appeared unused in perfect condition.
Moxie was founded in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1884 by Dr. Augustin Thompson of Union, ME. The proximity of the businesses might explain the existence of this bag. Originally, Moxie was touted as a patent medicine guaranteed to cure almost any ill including loss of manhood, "paralysis, and softening of the brain". These claims were revised slightly (more than slightly, actually) with the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906. Moxie is considered to be the first mass marketed soft drink.
Frank M. Archer, who appeared in many of Moxie's ads, promoted the soft drink in every form of advertising medium of the time. These items included: kids toys, piano rolls, recordings, sheet music, Moxie Candy, loving cups, china and silverware given away at civic events, lap boards for picnics, fans featuring silent movie stars of the era, and massive national advertising in printed media. Many of these ads featured stars of film, stage, and sports celebrities, not unlike what we see on the tube these days. Ed Wynn and the great George M. Cohan were amongst the many celebrities who made Moxie ads. In the early 60's, even Ted Williams was a spokesperson for Moxie. http://www.xensei.com/users/iraseski/Promotion.html
Taste and styles change. But there are few examples to match these examples of the drastic changes history can bring to such a seemingly apolitical object as a lady's handbag.
When the bag was produced as part of the Delysia line in the 1920's, the Swastika was only a design, a good luck symbol. It had a whole new meaning a decade later. Offered for sale by Granite Pail Collectibles for $350 but now sold. http://www.trocadero.com/granitepail/items/131855/item131855store.html#item
Martha Sleeper poses for this picture with her Whiting & Davis gold metal mesh clutch in the December 1935 Luggage & Leather Goods, page 47. Bakelite Jewelry collectors will remember her as the creator of whimsical figural pieces so sought after in today's vintage jewelry market. For more information on this film star of the 1920-40's who created a line of fabulous jewelry treasures, click 1935MarthaSleeper.
The same issue includes a feature on gold bags for evening. Beatrice Lilly enborses a new "Open Sesame" metal mesh bag, copied for a French original.
More details about the Open Sesame Bag are to be found on page 59:
980472: Whiting & Davis gold mesh evening bag DESIGNED AFTER SCHIAPERELLI Schiaparelli and marked as such. According to page 114 of "Handbags" by Eittinger, the cooperation between Whiting & Davis and Schiaperelli dates to 1936. Bag features metal mesh handle and an unusual wide upper band. Measures 6 x 4 1/2 x 1". Some wear to finish on button of latch and several tiny lipstick stains and soiling of gold satin lining. But generally excellent condition. SOLD for $65 in 1999 at Bag Lady Emporium
This November 15, 1937 magazine ad for Whiting & Davis'WhitingDavisCo Christmas line featured two "After Schiaparelli Schiaparelli" designs. Item B is the "Merry Widow" design while style C is described as "A Schiaparelli design with atop strap handle."
"SANTA, THE FAMOUS BAG MAN, SAYS:
Take it from Santa, the Whiting & Davis bags for Christmas this year are the prettiest and the most varied that you have ever seen in the stores. You'll find new bags there of all kinds, in all sizes and styles of metallic mesh, for all sorts of occasions. Several of the handsomest are genuine "After Schiaparelli" designs. In their brilliant colors of gold and silver and white pearl these Whiting & Davis bags make rich gifts — rich but not costly, as pricing them at your favorite bag department or jeweler will prove. Ask to see them." (Vogue November 15, 1937, page 128)
In 1976, to celebrate their 100th Anniversary, the Company produced The Heritage Collection. These bags sold for $10.00 and had extra long chain handles for use as shoulder bags. These unique portrait bags of Renee Adoree (a famed silent movie actress), Marion Davis (actress and lady of William Randolf Hearst), Clark Gable (The King of Hollywood) and Charlie Chaplin The Little Tramp of silent films) are known as The Star Series. They were and are wildly popular, but it is rumoured the bulk of the production was recalled and destroyed because of objections and threats of legal actions from the stars' heirs. For whatever reason, bags are very rare and highly prised by collectors. Check page 54 of "Whiting & Davis Purses" by Pina & Johnson for details and pictures.
The Charlie Chaplin bag was appraised on the 9/15/03 edition of Antiques Roadshow for $650. The pair shown below of Chaplin and Marion Davis were sold at Doyle Auction of New York May 3, 2001 for $3000. http://www.doylenewyork.com/default.htm
The Clack Gable was offered at auction online in October 1999, but failed to reach reserve with 18 bidders reaching a high bid of $1526.
The extraordinary Renee Adoree bag was auctioned in March 2006. After a flurry of 21 bids, the bag closed at $2124! Thanks to Laura Lacey for sharing the pictures of this extremely rare bag with all of us!
I suspect but have not as yet found conclusive proof that the W&D International label bagan after the company's purchase in 1979 by Taim Management of Australia.
In 2001, the handbag production of Whiting & Davis was licensed to The Inge Cristopher Group, Indolink. Indolink. Whiting & Davis continues in business, producing metal mesh products for architectural, fashion and industrial applications. Thanks to Darrin Cutler for the updates and correctionsWhiting & Davis.