V158: Pocket Trash

What is Pocket Trash?

I first heard this term used by the lovely Miss Emily Waterman and her Doctor, in regards to items carried on your person, while re-enacting, or dressed in costume.

Essentially they are props, things you can pull out of your pockets and “play” with, to add authenticity to your impression.  They are things that your character would have had with them back in {insert century here.}

Pocket trash for men and women might include letters, like these I’ve been lucky enough to receive from Lt. Michael Ramsey, and Mr. dePierne.

Your character would also likely have money, like these historical replica coins from Jas. Townsend…

Depending on your persona, you might wish to carry some other items…

  • spectacles
  • a pocketbook
  • a snuffbox
  • a watch, sundial, and/or compass
  • keys to various mysterious things
  • a fan
  • a needlecase, needlebook, or period sewing kit
  • a pipe

an 18th century ladies’ pocketbook

These are just a few suggested items.

Where do you get pocket trash?  Well, you can find many items, such as the coins, spectacles, and pipes online at sutlers like Jas. Townsend, Smiling Fox Forge, and Burnley & Trowbridge.  Some items you may wish to make, such as the embroidered pocketbooks and needlebooks.  As for letters – write to your friends!  Fine papers and a nib pen and ink are to be found at any craft or art store.  It is a great way to “live history,” practice your penmanship, and generate some pocket trash.  If you don’t have friends, write to yourself! 🙂

So What do you carry with you in your pockets?


  • Anonymous

    June 6, 2012 at 10:16 PM

    I like to carry a small antique top. It goes with any era of clothing I happen to be wearing and kids love it, too.

    It's the little things in historical life that make it worth living. 🙂

  • Rowenna

    June 6, 2012 at 10:46 PM

    LOL my pockets get so "lived in" that they're a combination of things I actually need to use all weekend (that may or may not be authentic, like my nifty authentic folding spoon and my non-authentic modern cash) and things that ought to have been thrown away. Like a Rolaids wrapper. I don't even know why I have that! I do keep a little box in camp, though, of less practical and more engaging items, that can come out and play.

    Also fun–giving spectators "pocket trash." We've done events in the past where the program/schedule came with a pass into camp or other papers that we could ask to see.

    • Lauren R

      June 7, 2012 at 8:37 PM

      We all have something like a Rolaids wrapper lingering in our pockets an purses, hahaha…

      I love the idea of having papers and passes that can be demanded at any time. I have heard that this happens at the Williamsburg event "Under the Redcoat" – what fun!

  • Anonymous

    June 6, 2012 at 11:03 PM

    I have a reproduction crown coin, a lump of beeswax and thread (the scissorss and pincushion hang off my apron tie), a roll of twill tape, a licorice root, a small reproduction notebook with lead, and usually an apple. Sometimes a horn spoon or mug can be found in there, too. Non period objects: cell phone, glasses case (with modern glasses in), flashlight, car keys, wallet/cash/id (since my "pocketbook" remains unfinished–so much irish stitch!)

  • Wildschrat

    June 6, 2012 at 11:32 PM

    My ship surgeon character Dr John Death (based upon a real person by that name) carries a lot of medical things in his bag (including an old rusty syringe), but I've made some stuff for him to have in his pockets as well – two or three tiny paper envelopes with some dubious pulverized medicine, a few crumpled and stained cartes de visitĂ©, an old medaillon of St Damian (patron saint of doctors), and a pocket flask with some strong "brandy" which he needs when he's doing amputations^^

    When I'm in my 18th cent lady's garb, I usually have all the modern stuff in the left pocket and the period stuff in the right: a medallion with a miniature of a handsome young man (my 'fiancé'), a little paper carnation, a small prayer book and smelling salt 🙂

  • Anonymous

    June 7, 2012 at 12:22 AM

    Why do they call all this lovely stuff trash?
    Those are beautiful letters, I wish I could write like that. I have two real victorian pennies that I found, but nothing else.
    I read an article once on the history of pockets and there was a list of things that had been recorded as being carried in ladies pockets, there was a load of stuff on the list including a nutmeg grater, and a ladies cap. Those 18th century pockets are awesome, practically bottomless! In some ways historical clothing is more practical than what we wear today.

  • Anonymous

    June 7, 2012 at 1:53 PM

    I carry a fan, chattelain with keys and pocket watch or just a pocket watch,and handkerchief. My costuming bud has a little bottle labeled laudenum as her persona is the addicted wife of a pharmacist. I also carry my modern stuff (car keys, drivers licience, phone and credit card/cash.) Sometimes I find toting all that stuff around awkward. Victorians didn't seem to hot on pockets for women. At least I can't find any references.

  • Jenny

    June 7, 2012 at 5:59 PM

    This gives me ideas for Gold Rush Days in Old Sacramento! I could carry a letter from a sweetheart, and read bits to people, and act all swoon-y. Very "Harvey Girls" lol.

    Fun post!

  • Alena

    July 31, 2012 at 12:26 AM

    I love all the comments and suggestions! In any era I'm reenacting I either have a knife or scissors on me, just like in my modern life. When doing 16th century we females kirtle up our skirts and hold all sorts of stuff in the folds. I can carry an entire water bottle without anyone noticing, but that is too heavy to do very often. I do carry a set of playing cards (raunchy German ones too), a rosary, an ear spoon, sometimes a comb, and usually some twine or twill tape.

    Not too long ago I wrote on my blog about the modern stuff I bring to events that I have not been able to do away with (yet) called Duct tape and Toilet paper:

    Lauren, do you have pocket trash for your 20th C impressions?


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