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Catalog Data

Wicker, cane, tin
.001: 8 3/4 × 15 3/4 × 3 1/4 in. (22.2 × 40 × 8.3 cm)
.002: 8 1/2 × 16 1/2 × 3 1/4 in. (21.6 × 41.9 × 8.3 cm)
Victorian (1837-1901)
Wicker basket with handle and metal insert. The body of the basket is rectangular with low, straight sides. The handle arches over the sides and top of basket and connects to the base. This design was used to create low arrangements suitable for table decorations because it would not block the view or hinder conversations with individuals across the table. Basket handles were usually decorated with ribbon and/or flowers regardless of the type or occasion. Furnishings and accessories made of wicker were extremely popular from the 1850s to the early 1900s. Wicker is comprised of woven rattan, willow, bamboo, or other imported or local grasses over a hard wood or iron frame. Florists kept a supply of wicker objects on hand to lend, rent, or sell to their customers to create elaborate settings in the homes or gardens for weddings, parties, balls, and holiday celebrations. Flowers and foliage were often intertwined to create a more festive display.
Label Text:
Since ancient Egyptian times, containers for plants, flowers, herbs, and edible plants have evolved according to the needs, fashions, and technology of the time. Through the centuries, these vessels have influenced the horticultural and aesthetic role of plants, and allowed for their cultivation, transportation, and display. The Industrial Revolution in the 1800s brought mechanization and mass production techniques that allowed a variety of eclectic plant containers to be produced cheaply and efficiently. Baskets could be both useful and decorative. They were used in the garden to carry things such as tools, fruits and vegetables, or flowers, as well as serving as decorative containers to display fresh or dried flower arrangements or as decorative covers for potted plants.
With a long historical tradition of designs and styles of containers to draw on in the nineteenth century, Victorians displayed their plants in a diverse collection of vases depending on the family’s income and taste. Baskets for floral arrangements were made from a variety of materials and in multiple sizes and shapes. Baskets were extremely popular for floral designs as gifts, parlor decorations, sympathy tributes, and weddings. Baskets for displaying flowers and plants could be large or small, rounded or squared, and meant to be carried or to sit on the table or floor. In the 1800s, popular magazines and etiquette manuals suggested the use of baskets of flowers for decorating parlor tables and mantles that were in keeping with the aesthetic of their surroundings. For parlor decorations, high stands with or without branches, small pendant baskets, or hanging baskets of flowers, or of plants, were frequently used.
There were three categories of basket arrangements: plant baskets, flower baskets, and a combination of both. Baskets usually had full arrangements, giving the appearance that it was bursting with leaves and blossoms of one type or multiple varieties. Basket also suited the desire for loose graceful arrangements, which were fashionable in the late 1800s and into the 1900s. Because the basket designs allowed them to contain water in the base, plants and flowers inside stayed fresh longer. The variety and longevity of arrangements in baskets made them highly-favored by the customers. By the 1910’s, suppliers offered as many 1,500 different styles of baskets in their catalogs, mostly being made from willow.
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Credit Line:
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection.
Accession number:
1980.035.007.001.a, b-1980.035.007.002.a,
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens