Earl Gresh Wood Purses

UPDATED October 22, 2017

A HUGE thank you to Deborah S. at The Smithsonian, who found the original accession information on an Earl Gresh purse that was donated in 1941! See below for a newspaper ad, and photos from the Smithsonian's archives.

Information below from Florida's Lost Tourist Attractions, http://www.lostparks.com/gresh.html

"Earl Gresh was a man of many careers: a bandleader, WSUN radio's first announcer, a boat builder, a fisherman, an editor. But, in the Great Depression of the 1930's, it was his talent for woodworking that pulled him through. In 1931, working out of a small shop behind his house at 232 12th Avenue Northeast in Saint Petersburg, Earl began making a living fashioning wooden buttons, lures, purses, and tackleboxes and selling them to locals and tourists alike. His products caught on, enabling him to move to a larger gift shop at 2221 Fourth Street North in 1937. It was here that, in 1940, he built his Wood Parade, a museum of wood featuring samples of woods from around the world. A large cypress tree stump formed the centerpiece of his museum, but his crowning work was the sixteen half-size marquetry murals that depicted the life of Christ. (These were later moved to Memorial Park Mausoleum at 49th Street and 54th Avenue North).
With the Sunshine Skyway diverting cars to 34th Street and reduced tourist traffic, the Wood Parade closed in 1959. In his later years Earl devoted himself to fishing, founding the St. Petersburg Rod and Gun Club. He died in 1977 at the age of 81."

Photos of purses and Ephemera below from the collection of The Vintage Purse Gallery, with the exception of ad from Newspapers.com, and information provided from The Smithsonian.

Earl Gresh purse with initials.

Earl Gresh imprint inside bag above.

Front of post card showing Earl Gresh's Wood Parade.

Back of post card.

Tampa Bay Times, March 26, 1944
Accession card from the Smithsonian

The model in this Earl Gresh brochure is Gerry Meyer, whose daughter contacted The Vintage Purse Gallery and identified her. If you have any original photos or other brochures with Ms. Meyer modeling Earl Gresh bags and are willing to part with them, please email info@vintagepursegallery.com.

Earl Gresh "Stripewood Pocketbook" with all of its original packaging.

More information about Earl Gresh on this site: http://luresnreels.com/woodparade.html



Description: From Bag Lady University: http://www.bagladyemporium.com/BLU/index.php?n=Main.Plasticflex
Patent 2,256,645 was filed March 28, 1941 to Florence Kuhlman for Robert Appel, New York, NY. It covers an innovative weaving method used to assemble "provide a material comprised of interfitted rigid units...by pliable means interlace with said units whereby an articulate, decorative and ornamental surface is obtained."

"The latest member of the R. Appel "plasticflex" family is an enormous underarm with a matching small plasticflex top zipper bag inside. This new pair retails for $7.50 complete and is shown in the various color combinations for which this line is well known."

 Photo of woman holding plastic tile clutch (either Plasticflex or Jorues) from The Vintage Purse Gallery's collection.

Note from Wendy Dager of The Vintage Purse Gallery: I did extensive online research to find out just who Ms. Kuhlman was, with no success, even checking sites such as Ancestry.com, as well as online obituaries. There aren't that many Florence Kuhlmans, but there are/were a few, and I'm not sure if any of the women I found (now deceased) are this inventor. Also, Robert Appel was a tough one to find as well, with a slightly more common name. If you know who these people were (they were based in NYC in the 1940s), or if you know any of their friends, family or former coworkers, please email me at info@vintagepursegallery.com. Also, I have read in numerous places that these plastic tiles were used because leather was scarce during WWII. However, I have never actually met someone from that era who could confirm this. Your opinions and comments are more than welcome!

Photos on this post are from The Vintage Purse Gallery's collection, plus two of Florence Kuhlman's patents (per Google patents; see links), and a lawsuit filed with regard to a patent infringement.

Patent: From Google patents: http://www.google.com/patents/US2256645
Decorative material
US 2256645 A
ABSTRACT  available in


DESCRIPTION  (OCR text may contain errors)
Sept. 23, 1941.
AT oRNl-:Y
Patented Sept. 23, 1941 Florence Kuhlman, New York, N. Y., assignor to EobertAppel, New York, N. Y.
Application March 28, 1941, Serial No. 385,650
4 claims. (c1. 41-34) This invention relates to decorative material Aof the type which may be employed for covering handbags, belts, and other accessory articles of apparel.
An object of the invention is to provide a decorative material which has long wearing properties, is highly attractive, and is inexpensive to manufacture.
Another object is to provide a material formed of intertted rigid units and to so mount said units as to alford the material a high degree of articulateness.
A further object is to provide a material comprising a plurality of interiitted rigid units and pliable means interlaced with said units whereby an articulate, decorative and ornamental surface is obtained.
Other objects of the invention reside in novel means for securing said material to an accessory article of apparel.
'Ihe foregoing objects and other objects, features, and advantages of the invention will be pointed out in the following specification or will be apparent therefrom. The accompanying drawing, forming the basis for the specification, illustrates conceptions of the invention lat present preferred. In said drawing:
Fig. 1 is a face view of apportion of material made in accordance with the invention.
Fig. 2 is a perspective view of a ladys handbag illustrating a preferred application of the Ymaterial.
Fig. 3 is an enlarged cross-sectional view as taken on the plane of the line 3-3 of Fig. 2.
Figui is a fragmentary vertical sectional view showing an alternate mannerof securing .the decorative material upon a ladys handbag.
In that embodiment of the inventionwhich is illustrated, the decorative material comprises a preferably fabric backing sheet I0, a series of spaced tapes or the like II, a series of transversely arranged spaced tapes or the like I I, and a plurality of units I3.
'I'he backing sheet, while preferably fabric, may be leather or any material which has a desired degree of pliability for the purpose intended.
Both series of tapes may be formed of longitudinally folded strips of fabric, leather, or like pliable material or may be Strands, cords, or ropes. The tapes Il and I2 intersect as can be seen from Fig. 1 and it is preferred that they be interwoven in the manner of basket weaving.
to the edges of the backing sheet as by stitching, gluing, or by wire staples.
The units I3 may be suitably shaped and may be made of any rigid material. However, it is preferred to make the units of plastic compound of the nature of 4Catalin, Bakelite, Beetleware, etc. I
To reduce cost and also weight, the unitsv I3 are each formed as a shell forming a hollow interior I4 where the tapes II and I2 intersect.
Each unit is formed with opposed openings i5 for the tapes II and transverse opposed openings I6 for the tapes I2. The units may be decorated, be formed with attractive designs or shaped to provide a pleasing harmonious area as indicated in the drawing.
As can be seen, the units I3 are arranged coplanar with the openings I5 of a row thereof in alignment so that a tape II may be threaded through said openings and secured at its ends to the backing sheet as described. Several suchv rows of units, commensurate with the height .of the, backing sheet, are so mounted until the f surface of said sheet is covered by the several rows of units. The transverse tapes I2` are similarly threaded through the aligned openings I6 and secured as before.
The units I3 are preferably in edge touching engagement as shown to obviate undue displacement movement among them and yet permittingl the desired articulation. While shown as square units in the drawing. other shapes such as round, hexagonal or octagonal may be used. In the latter case. the backing sheet would become visible in the spaces between the unit, a condition which may be employed to furtherv enhance the appearance of the material.
In the above manner a decorative material is provided which has many uses as can be well understood. A preferred use for this material is as a ladys handbag cover as represented in Fig. 2- of the drawing. Although the material thus formed is pliable it is suiiiciently rigid so that it will maintain its shape unless under normal manipulation but can be articulated in the manner of a fabric or a piece of leather.
Thus, the material lends itself for use in frameless bags as shown in Figs. 2 and 3, it being merely necessary to stitch together the adjacent edges of a folded piece of said material as at I1 to form an envelope bag. Suitable closure' means I8 may be provided for the bag opening'. It will be noted that the ends of the tapes` II are firmly held by the seam I9 Vthus formed.
The ends of both series of tapes may be secured This may be in addition to the mentioned secur- 2 A ing means or in lieu thereof. Similarly the ends of the tapes I2 may be secured by the stitching by. means of which the closure means Il is secured.
In thevusual manner, the bag may be provided with a lining 2l.
sides, and pairs of opposed openings in said sides'. said units being arranged with their bases in edge to edge relation. and a transverse series oi' interlaced tapes passing through the aligned As shown-in Fig`. 4, in bags provided with frames, the frame 2| may serve to secure the Y tapes II and I2, the backing sheet Il, and the lining 22. From the foregoing it may be seen that'an attractive decorative material has been provided which has many uses. particularly for accessory articles of apparel. Inasmuch as this disclosure is intended as exemplary only of the invention, it should be understood that many changes within the spirit and scope of the invention as dened in thel following. claims may well be made by those skilled in the art.
What I claim as new and desire to secure by Letters Patent, is:
l. A decorative material comprising a backing sheet, a plurality of hollow box-like units disposed on said sheet and each formed with sloping walls, said walls having transversely arranged pairs of openings, a series oi' tapes each passing through the aligned pairs of openings of a row of-said'v units. -andanother series of tapes ar'- range'd' transversely tothe flrst mentioned series and 'each passing through the other pairs of openings of the. transverse rows of said units, each unit having edge contact with adjacent units, said tapes bridging the gaps 'between adjacent sloping walls. .l v
2. In a decorative material, a plurality, of decorative units arranged side by side each comprising a hollow rigidmember having sloping aligned openings'of a row of said umts, andv pairs ofA said opposed openings to inter-connect .gaps between adjacent units.
v 4. A decorative material comprising a plurality of decorative units arranged side by side. each unit having a top and side walls, said side walls having a portion thereof out of line of a plane lying between the units and perpendicular to the tops thereof, said units having partial edge contact with adjacent units, and the out-of-line portions of adjacent units opposing one another to produce a gap between portions of the units,
said units having transverse openings extendingtherethrough and through said out-offline portions, a series of tapes each passing through another series of tapes arranged transversely to the first series and each passing through the other aligned openings of the transverse rows of said units, said tapes bridging said gaps.

Rare box style Plasticflex bag from The Vintage Purse Gallery's collection.

Earlier Patent for Similar Design: http://www.google.com/patents/USD121439
Design for a handbag ok
US D121439 S


DESCRIPTION  (OCR text may contain errors)
Patented July 9, 1940 UNITED STATES Des. 121,439
' PATENT OFFICE DESIGN FOR A HANDBAG OR SIIVIILAR ARTICLE Florence Kuhlman, New York, N. Y., assignor to Robert Appel, New York, N. Y.
Application May 21, 1940, Serial No. 92,494
Term of patent 3% years To all whom it may concern:
Be it known that I, Florence Kuhlman, a citizen of the United States, residing at New York city, in the county and State of New York, have invented a new, original and ornamental, Design for a Handbag or Similar Article, of which the following is a specification; reference being had to the accompanying drawing, forming part thereof.
Fig. 1 is a perspective view of a handbag or similar article, showing my new design.
Fig. 2 is a side view of one of the plaque elements of the design.
The side and end of the handbag not shown in Fig. 1 of the drawing are substantially like the side and end shown.
The characteristic features of the design reside in the ornamentation of the handbag.
I claim:
The ornamental design for a handbag or similar article, substantially as shown and described.

1945 lawsuit regarding infringement ("double patenting") of Kuhlman's purse patents: http://www.leagle.com/decision/194580960FSupp749_1638.xml/APPEL%20v.%20LILLING


60 F.Supp. 749 (1945)
APPEL et al. v. LILLING.
District Court, S. D. New York.
April 26, 1945.

David J. Moscovitz, of New York City (Mock & Blum and Percy Freeman, all of New York City, of counsel), for plaintiffs.

Irving Frederick Goodfriend, of New York City, for defendant.

GODDARD, District Judge.
The defendant has moved for summary judgment under Rule 56 dismissing the complaint on the ground that the patent on which the suit is based is invalid for double patenting.
The suit is for the infringement of Patent No. 2,256,645. This patent, issued on September 23, 1941, to Florence Kuhlman on an application filed March 28, 1941, and assigned to Robert Appel, is for a decorative material, such as may be used on handbags. Claim 2 of the patent is typical: "In a decorative material, a plurality of decorative units arranged side by side each comprising a hollow rigid member having sloping sides, and pairs of opposed openings in said sides, said units being arranged with their bases in edge to edge relation, and a transverse series of interlaced tapes passing through the aligned pairs of said opposed openings to interconnect the units."

It appears from the motion papers that the plaintiffs had also owned Design Patent No. 121,439, issued to Florence Kuhlman on July 9, 1940, on application filed May 21, 1940, and assigned also to Robert Appel. The design protected by this patent was for a handbag or similar article. The claim is limited to the design shown in the drawing, which consists of a number of plaques arranged in rows on the surface of the handbag with links between the holes in the sides of the adjacent plaques. There can be no doubt but that the drawings for the two patents are of similar decorative material.
The precise question is whether the two patents are identical so as to be subject to the defense of double patenting. To arrive at a decision on this question the claims of the two patents must be examined [60 F.Supp. 750] to see if they are identical. See Western Electric Co. v. General Talking Pictures Corp., 2 Cir., 91 F.2d 922, 926, affirmed 304 U.S. 175, 546, 58 S.Ct. 849, 82 L.Ed. 1273. I believe that the claims of the two patents are not sufficiently identical to be subject to this defense.

The design patent is for an ornamental design formed by rows of plaques with certain indicated features. The plaques of the article patent are not so limited. Substantially changing the design on the top of the plaques would take the design outside of the protection of the design patent. Nevertheless, if strung on tapes, these plaques would infringe on the article patent. The design patent does not show what the connecting links are, nor whether they serve any function. The article patent provides for tapes running through all of the plaques in a line. The plaques in the design patent might be solid, whereas they must be hollow to come within the claims of the article patent. The plaques in the design patent might be fastened to the bag in any number of ways, such as by stitching, or by stapling. But under the article patent, the plaques must be fastened to the bag by means of the transverse tapes. The plaque surface in the design patent might be either flexible or rigid; whereas the plaque surface of the article patent is flexible. In the design patent the side of the bag might be one single solid piece shaped and colored as indicated. Under the article patent the side of the bag must be made up of a number of small units.

The design patent is based on eye appeal; whereas the article patent is based on the combination of the hollow plaques with transverse tapes running through the plaques and holding them together. Patent No. 2,256,645 relates to the construction. Design Patent No. 121,439 covers only the external appearance. This difference distinguishes the design from the later article patent, avoiding double patenting. Mathieu v. Mitchell Vance Co., 2 Cir., 7 F.2d 837; Bayley & Sons, Inc., v. Standart Art Glass Co., 2 Cir., 249 F. 478; Murdock v. Vaughan Novelty Mfg. Co., Inc., 51 U.S. P.Q. 214, affirmed 7 Cir., 131 F.2d 258. The case of H. C. White Co. v. Morton E. Converse & Son Co., 2 Cir., 20 F.2d 311, is not in point, since the article patent was for the same claimed invention as the design patent.

Motion denied.