It was with deep sadness I read by a majority vote via an online poll taken by more than 4 million people, that the thimble captured the fewest votes and will be replaced as a Monopoly game token by heaven-knows-what.
This venerated board game was born during the Great Depression when thrift was a virtue and people made do making, mending and patching their clothes. TV shows like The Waltons, The Homefront and Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors song and Christmas Special paid tribute to the ways of a passing generation that showed so much resilience in the face of economic hard times and war. It is not too surprising younger online voters would first toss the iron and then the thimble aside for what: I-phone, a Segway, a “Dick Tracy” watch, or maybe the banana slicer? The thimble token lasted over 85 years: How long will the latest gadget or fad token last?
The history of the thimble goes way back tens of thousands of years according to the Fingerhut Museum website: bit.ly/1USFLCS. The Fingerhut (literally “finger hat” auf Deutsch) Museum is located in Creglinger, Germany and was opened in 1982 by Thorvald and Brigitte Greif. The foundation for this private museum was the inheritance of the Gabler brothers in Schorndorf, which was taken over by Helmut Greif. Unfortunately a fire destroyed the whole factory; so Helmut Greif conducted intensive research of the thimble’s origins. This knowledge is the basis for the museum that also pays honor to thimble manufacturers who tried hard to design them with subtle inventions to protect women’s hands from the pinpricks of the past. Today the Greifs continue to design and manufacture them in their goldsmith’s shop where they produce small quantities of collector thimbles and unique designs.
The museum website traces the first thimbles to excavations near Moscow where bones were found, which were used 30,000 years ago by mammoth hunters to stitch pearl embroideries onto pieces of leather, 10,000 years ago findings of press stones implemental for sewing, 2,500 years ago bronze thimbles and needle pushers were used in the Mediterranean area. As of 100 A.D.: the Romans spread bronze thimbles in part of Europe. Around 1150: Holy Hildegard v. Bingen: a thimble as part of her dowry upon her entry into the cloister is mentioned. Around 1500: first masterpieces in thimble handicraft in Nürnberg are produced. Paracelsus discovers the metal zinc. Because of this there are new brass products including thimbles. As of 1537: first thimble-makers order. Around 1568: Jost Ammann prints a book in which all handicrafts are shown. The thimble-makers with their new manufacturing method are shown in woodcuts. As of 1628: thimble mills in Hollands is later the foundation of a thimble-makers’ trust. As of 1696: Bernhard v. der Becke from Iser-lohn builds a new factory for brass. As of 1700: The Dutchman J. Lofting produces thimbles in London with help of a machine; this is the beginning of the thimble industry. As of 1710: thimble production is large in the Rhineland, Sundwig and Iserlohn.
So now when someone asks me what I would like for birthday or Christmas, I can direct them to the museum’s gift shop, but for now I quilt with my trusty thimble on my southpaw index finger pushing the needle through the layers of fabric and batting. I find comfort in knowing others and I use a simple device that has served a mighty purpose for thousands of years and will continue to do so as long as people thread a needle.
Vielen Dank to Brigitte Greif for allowing me to share the museum’s website information with you! The museum is now on my “bucket list”!
Lois Levihn is the owner of Born Again Quilts located at 4005 South Wayne Ave. Part studio/part quilt shop it’s where FrankenBlankies come back to life! Contact her at bornagainquilts.com or 260-515-9446.