Sunday, April 8, 2018

Timeline for Witches

Reviewing archival records and catalogs that compare two vintage witch decorations available 1930s, 1940s, 1950s.

As a collector of vintage Halloween, I feel it is worth the extra steps to research the minutiae of these items' history for myself. And of the types of decor, this blog has frequently reflected on German imports (specifically time discrepancies per dates in modern guidebooks) --- but how about the historical availability of American-made merchandise?

Mulling over vintage catalogs now for both German and the U.S., I started to consider the creation of a timeline that would test the reference dates provided in various guides. Therefore this entry is an exercise, perhaps proving the wisdom in expanding one's available resources. And again I would stress that much of the content here (as with previously presented German catalogs) is pulled directly from archival records.

Following then are two timelines for two different witches --- American and German.

Dingbat visual blog divider for Vintage Halloween Collectibles blog.

First up is this iconic witch (one-sided at 15"x23") by Beistle described in one catalog as "Always a popular Halloween character and a splendid wall or background decoration." In one recently printed guidebook* she is curtly dated as mid-1930s. In another (by an author* who visited the Beistle archives) the item is stated as having an initial release (which is a thoughtfully open-ended phrase) of 1933 with a print run lasting at least until 1949 (the end timeline for that book). While I am apt to trust the archive-referenced resource, I would still ask myself --- do we have any proof from past suppliers? And the answer is yes, with some surprising expansions of sale dates. Here's the Beistle witch timeline based on available resources.

Review of  timeline for American kitsch Halloween decoration from the 1930s to the 1950s.
1933
Beistle Witch: Initial Release Date
(source: Timeless Halloween Collectibles 1920-1949, Claire M. Lavin)
Resource book on vintage Halloween collectibles because author visited the Beistle archives.
Dingbat visual blog divider for Vintage Halloween Collectibles blog.
1934
Gellman Brothers (source: collection of blogger)
Dingbat visual blog divider for Vintage Halloween Collectibles blog.
1936
Gellman Brothers (source: collection of blogger)
Slack MFG (source: collection of blogger)
Resource catalog for vintage Halloween collectibles that contains Beistle's witch decoration and other crepe, noisemakers, etc.
Dingbat visual blog divider for Vintage Halloween Collectibles blog.
1937
N. Shure (source: online auction item)
Dingbat visual blog divider for Vintage Halloween Collectibles blog.
1938 
Dingbat visual blog divider for Vintage Halloween Collectibles blog.
1940 
Levin Brothers (source: Ben Truwe's Halloween Catalog Collection)
General Merchandise Co. (source: Ben Truwe's Halloween Catalog Collection)
Dingbat visual blog divider for Vintage Halloween Collectibles blog.
1941
General Merchandise Co. (source: Ben Truwe's Halloween Catalog Collection)
Slack MFG (source: collection of blogger)
Resource catalog for vintage Halloween collectibles that contains Beistle's witch decoration as well as lanterns, crepe, noisemakers, etc.
Dingbat visual blog divider for Vintage Halloween Collectibles blog.
1947 
Gellman Brothers (source: Ben Truwe's Halloween Catalog Collection)
Dingbat visual blog divider for Vintage Halloween Collectibles blog.
1948
Beistle (source: dragonflydesignstudio)
Catalog page of vintage Halloween collectibles by Beistle with witch decoration as well as pumpkins, black cats, scarecrows, etc.
Dingbat visual blog divider for Vintage Halloween Collectibles blog.
1952
Gellman Brothers (source: Ben Truwe's Halloween Catalog Collection)
Dingbat visual blog divider for Vintage Halloween Collectibles blog.
1953 
Pico Novelty Co. (source: Ben Truwe's Halloween Catalog Collection)
Dingbat visual blog divider for Vintage Halloween Collectibles blog.
  1954
Optican Brothers (source: Ben Truwe's Halloween Catalog Collection)
Gordon Novelty Co. (source: Ben Truwe's Halloween Catalog Collection)
Beistle "Bee-Line" (source: internet, unk.)Two catalog pages of vintage Halloween collectibles that has Beistle's witch decoration as well as skulls and jack-o-lanterns, etc.
Dingbat visual blog divider for Vintage Halloween Collectibles blog.
1955
Gordon Novelty Co. (source: Ben Truwe's Halloween Catalog Collection)
 Dingbat visual blog divider for Vintage Halloween Collectibles blog.
1959
Pico Novelty Co. (source: collection of blogger)
Optican Brothers (source: Ben Truwe's Halloween Catalog Collection)
Willens & Company (source: internet)
Dingbat visual blog divider for Vintage Halloween Collectibles blog.
1958-1959
Moratorium Date?
Not appearing: Beistle "Bee-Line" 
(source: Euclid Boo)
Cover of Beistle catalog - these provide great reference for vintage Halloween collectibles.

Be aware that the above timeline is not simply wholesalers (1936-1959) with possible overstock, but also the actual manufacturer (1948, 1954) who created the item for sale to the trade at relatively recent dates! (Note of course that you should not confuse vintage decorations with newer variations by Beistle). 

Second, what about one of those embossed diecut witches from Germany? This is where it gets murky. Again, no expert of collectibles has come forward with any firm manufacturer history, and the U.S. catalog presence for these items is fairly spotty. Let's take a look at the following witch.

Review of  timeline for German-made spooky Halloween decoration 1940s.
1920's?
German Witch: Release Date?
(source: generalized date with no cited references in current guidebooks)
Dingbat visual blog divider for Vintage Halloween Collectibles blog.
1929?
German diecuts but not this item
N. Shure (source: online auction item)
Dingbat visual blog divider for Vintage Halloween Collectibles blog.
1936?
German diecuts but not this item
Slack MFG (source: collection of blogger)
Dingbat visual blog divider for Vintage Halloween Collectibles blog.
1937?
German diecuts but not this item
The Herald (source: ad in a newspaper)
Dingbat visual blog divider for Vintage Halloween Collectibles blog.
1948
Shackman (source: online auction item)
Resource catalog for vintage Halloween collectibles contains German witch decoration as well as lanterns, etc.

1955-1970's?
German diecuts but not this item
Einzinger's Narrenfibel (source: collection of blogger)
?
End Date Unclear

Quite a difference between these two witches. We have one with a very clear timeline full of archival catalogs, compared to a second with extremely little in way of referential evidence (that when she does appear is nowhere near the date in our modern guidebook). I'm going to let you draw the conclusions. 

I would also mention, if you would like to see more pages from the catalogs listed above (and thus help expand your available resources), see this facebook group: Halloween Antiques. You are sure to create some very eye-opening timelines! And again, since it was so often referenced, is a link to Ben Truwe's Halloween Catalog Collection.

*Please note (because there is some amount of distracting tribalism among collectors) that I have neither contact with current commentators, book authors, nor sales people in the writing of these articles.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Ghost Cellar Jazz

Jazz band skeletons (excerpt image from German 1965 catalog) are considered (incorrectly?) vintage Halloween collectibles from the 1930s.

Even though the last entry here was almost two years past, that doesn't mean research ceased. With assistance, I have since pieced together a rather large collection of imported Einzinger Narrenfibel catalogs (some seen here in previous entries), and this 1965-1967 edition was particularly one I had been looking forward to obtaining based on known excerpts; it also turned out to be quite the prize given the additional surprises! With this in hand, I'm still trying to figure out why it is assumed by old-school experts (as yet offering zero counter evidence in print) that paper items from Germany ceased after WWII - even though items assumed as 1930s are found here in this 1965 catalog.

Discussion of the Narrenfibel Catalog containing items considered to be vintage Halloween collectilbes
Einzinger Narrenfibel 65

Question! Is the tale of certain German mask makers for Karneval (and world export) similar to what occurred with embossed German diecuts? The timeline seems to match. Take Manebach, for example: -"Manebach masks were trendy in the 1930s. Lack of material and sales difficulties were the reason why in 1960 the Thuringian mask factory Heintz & Kühn closed their doors. After the closure of the mask and paper lantern factory Eilers and Meyin, 1971, these products were no longer made there. Gone were the days when Manebach carnival items were sold on every continent."  For full article see: "Manebach was once a stronghold of mask making" (Manebach war einst eine Hochburg der Maskenfabrikation).

Until the mystery is solved, here are a few pages from this incredible 99 page catalog offering items for sale 1965-1967 in Germany. I have added rough translations to certain items of interest below the images.

Dimensional 4-legged black cat German diecut from 1965 German katalog not vintage Halloween collectible.

Page 36 -

#19 Hollenkater, 40 cm gross. Pappe, Leuchtaugen, paarweise rechts - oder linksschauend lieferbar. Stuck 2.50. 
#19 Hellcat, 15.75 in. tall. Cardboard, bright eyes, in pairs right - or left-facing available. Piece 2.50.

German diecut cats and pumpkins, devil, and skeleton band seen here for Karneval, not vintage Halloween collectibles.

Page 49 -

#3 Blocksberg-Fries. 40 cm breit, 2 m lang, grune Wandleiste aus kraftigem Krepp Papier, mit 7 verscheidenen Spuk- gesellen aus gepragtem Karton. Fries 12.50.
#3 Block Mountain frieze. 15.75 in. wide, 78.75 in. long, green wall strip made of strong crepe paper, with 7 different Spooks made of embossed cardboard. Frieze 12.50. ***

#4 Geister-Kulisse. bestehend aus 4 zusammensetzbaren schwarzen Kartontafeln, je 68x96 cm gross, mit ausgeschnittenen, farbig hinterklebten Motiven, vin ruckwarts beleuchtbar. Satz mit 4. Stuck 24.
#4 Ghost-backdrop. Consisting of 4 black cardboard panels, each 26.75 in. x 37.80 in. in size, with cut-out motifs that are pasted in ghost-backdrop. Can be illuminated from behind. Set of 4 pieces 24.

#5 Jazz im Geisterkeller. 4 verschiedene Figuren, 37 cm gross, aus starkem Karton, mit Aufsteller. Sortiment 3,50.
#5 Jazz in the ghost cellar. 4 different figures, 14 1/2 in. tall, made of strong cardboard, with easel. Assortment 3.50.

#6 Old-devil. 50 cm gross, aus rotschwarzem Karton, mit Aufstellar. Stuck 3.50.
#6 Old-devil. 19.68 in. Made of red-black cardboard, with easel. Piece 3.50.

Ghosts, spooks, in a giant spider web from a German catalog for Karneval

German embossed cardboard diecuts - pumpkins, black cats, skeleton - said to be vintage Halloween collectibles in USA shown here in German catalog

Page 51 -

#14 Grusel mobile zum aufhangen, mit 8 grotesken motiven, aus starke, gepragtem karton, bunt bemalt, die figuren tanzen bei geringster luftbewegung... komplett 9.50.
# 14 Scary mobile to hang, with 8 grotesque motifs, made of strong, embossed cardboard, painted in color, the figures dance in the slightest air movement ... complete 9.50.

#15 Skelettt, aus starkem Pappkarton geprägt, naturgetreu bemalt, beweglich  70 cm gross Stuck 4.50. / 750 Skelett 125 cm gross. Stuck 7.50. 
#15 Skeleton, embossed from strong cardboard, faithfully painted, movable 27.5 in. large piece 4.50. / 750 Skeleton 50 in. tall. Piece 7.50.


Additional Reading 


People seem confused that there may have been Halloween celebrations in Germany? No, that's not what you are seeing here. These catalogs were for the celebration of Karneval, Fasching, Fastnacht (and other fantastical celebrations) - which like modern Halloween have different sub-themes. It didn't take a Halloween holiday to fill the German landscape with a long history of spooks, devils, and witches. And you will find these links of additional interest.

Walpurgis' Night, engraving after an illustration by Johann Heinrich Ramberg, 1829

Block Mountain, Blocksberg or Brocken: this Wikipedia entry says "The Brocken has always played a role in legends and has been connected with witches and devils" so again the characters shown above in the catalog were not specifically Halloween subjects - https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brocken.

Goethe described the Brocken in his Faust, first published in 1808, as the center of revelry for witches on Walpurgisnacht (30 April; the eve of St Walpurga's Day).
Now, to the Brocken, the witches ride;
The stubble is gold and the corn is green;
There is the carnival crew to be seen,
And Squire Urianus will come to preside.
So over the valleys, our company floats,
With witches a-farting on stinking old goats.
German Witches: A very interesting read from 2011 on the connection of German history/traditions with marketable American Halloween imagery - https://streetsofsalem.com/2011/10/24/german-witches/

These German witches actually have nothing to do with Halloween; they flew to the mountains on Walpurgis night.

Karneval Masks A good read on the long history of a paper factory that existed from the 1800's all the way through to 1971: "Manebach was once a stronghold of mask making" (Manebach war einst eine Hochburg der Maskenfabrikation).

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Ornamenten Groteske

German embossed diecuts (skeleton) and lantern from the 1960s available in Germany (Narrenfibel catalog)

Spooked by German diecut availability through the 1970's, (pushing experts' guide dates beyond the 1920s-1940s)? As mentioned in the blog introduction - (see addition of point #6) - content is offered here from historical print (re: vintage discoveries), so I welcome counterpoint (likewise from historical print, that is) that does indeed seclude German diecuts to a time before the mid-century. In fact, I would be most grateful if anyone would provide an actual account of German diecut manufacturers which, to my knowledge, does not exist?

This leads us to yet another expansion for the availability of certain German diecuts (previously glimpsed in the entry Halloween in Germany: 1955).  In a similar pirate theme, we now have this Narrenfibel 1960 catalog (shown here scanned from the vintage item) that offered its German audience the chance to buy these embossed cardboard items - a Hellcat, Skeleton, and Port Lantern... (see the English translation below the close-up of page 51).

Cover art, illustration featuring romantic clown kissing a mask hanging from chair.

Vintage Halloween collectibles - moveable skeleton, a black cat, and large lantern all of embossed cardboard available for 1960 German Karneval Fasching, Faschnacht

Vintage Halloween collectibles - lantern, black cat, and moveable skeleton.



17. Hafenlanterne, imit. (imitation) Schmiedeeisin 40 cm gross mit grotesken Eulen, Hexen, Kater Ornamenten auf orangefarbenem transparentpapier

17. Imitation-ironwork port lantern 15 3/4" tall with grotesque owls , witch , cat ornamentation on an orange transparent paper. Item 4.50


22. Totenskelett, aus Pappe, gepragt und naturgetreu bemalt, mit beweglichen Gliedern 120 cm gross.

22. Dead skeleton , made ​​of cardboard , embossed and painted lifelike , with movable limbs. 47 1/4" tall . Item 7.50.


24. Hoellenkater 40 cm gross aus Pappe mit groenleuchtenden Augen. paarweise recht, oder linksschauend lieferbar. stuck 2.50  

24. Hellcat 15 3/4” tall made of cardboard with big bright eyes . paired right or left facing . Item 2.50


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Ghost Flight

This week featuring Rust Craft bizarre imagery like these ghosts in a pumpkin carriage pulled by a witch and her cats

If the popularity and inventiveness of Beistle is to vintage Halloween collectibles what a major pop group is to music, then Rust Craft is the obscure alterna-band you never heard of - somewhat (yet thankfully) obscure and magically bizarre. (Apologies for the lo-fi quality of these images)... 

For more Rust Craft, see also: Ain't Grub Grand! or Gold Filigree Halloween.

Ghosts in pumpkin carriage pulled through the dark forest by a witch and her black cats.

Elves, bats, black cats, witches, ghosts, and more on these vintage Halloween set of place cards by Rust Craft circa 1920s

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Time Capsule Ghosts

A vintage Halloween collectibles blog.

Does excluding the knowledge of other fields in turn affect our current understanding of certain vintage collectibles? I would attest that while each of us may have familiarity to large catalogues of past imagery (for example vintage decor images by Beistle, Dennison, Gibson, etc.), we should also ask if we (myself included) fully understand the historical context of their appearance. For example, do we know the full extent of design processes, merchandise production, and business operations ---- all of which are extremely important to properly assess time-capsule discoveries of Halloween items. If we ignore external and/or related variables we might create a powerful but incorrect interpretation.

Just to play devil's advocate (with no reference to current listings) what follows is historical fiction that assumes minimal yet practical knowledge of the past employees of Gibson and Dennison. Note that photography sub-titles are actual, and images link to source material. And the portraits drawn here are based from this factual photography.



A Tale of Two Employees

Hallie Wiene was hired in the 1910's by the Gibson factory along with a thousand+ head-count of other employees. She performed light assembly and packed orders for millions of manufactured cards and diecuts that rolled off the assembly lines. (Departments such as printing or die-cutting with their multi-ton machinery were separate, while high-profile jobs like creative design, marketing, and sales were also elsewhere in separated offices).

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/26/women-working-100-years-ago_n_6940494.html

Hallie loved the beautiful designs. During her employment, she squirreled away quite a collection of damaged and/or overstock items that otherwise would have entered the trash bin. She wondered what it would be like to design such products. With some of her small collection, she would cut and paste them, to use as decoration for parties at the office.

http://framinghammatters.blogspot.com/2014/02/1912-families-working-at-home-for.html
Above: 1912. South Framingham, Massachusetts. Two mothers, three children, working on tags for Dennison. Children anemic. Make $10 (more or less) a month. (Library of Congress).

Hallie's distant relative, Glenda, worked for Dennison. Hallie envied Glenda's ability to work from home, but Glenda was far removed from company life. Glenda's employer was large, at one time employing over 3,000 with offices and manufacturing located in different cities, different states. Glenda was somewhat crafty, but she was a world away from viewing the important sketchbooks and pre-die mock-ups created by the all-too distant design team. (She never learned the names of these designers, and that would have been a truly important discovery!) Glenda and children were sometimes gifted the damaged and/or excess stock, and the family sometimes altered the decorations for their parties at home.

http://framinghammatters.blogspot.com/2014/02/1912-families-working-at-home-for.html
Above: Macaroni all spread out on table being cut. Tag tying (for Dennison) going on at same table. 1912. Photograph and caption by Lewis Wickes Hine (Library of Congress archive).



Are these portraits plausible? Again, the portraits are built on factual images yet the above is historical fiction, and offered merely as counterpoint to exuberant dreams that sometimes riddle the world of collectibles. These portraits are welcome to grow and change as we gather more facts about employee life at these companies...

Earlier entries on this blog which examine assumption and reality include: Halloween Diecut Quiz (that reviews our knowledge of the diecut process), Bogie Books | Bogus Bindings (that questions assumptions of book publishing), as well as Halloween in Germany:1955 (from a series of entries questioning the production/availability history of German-made diecuts).