Saturday, January 9, 2016

Who was GM Co?

Black cat driving a Jack O'Lantern car from a vintage halloween candy container circa 1940s.

A well-known admirer of vintage Halloween currently credits a series of candy containers, pull-toys and rockers (constructed of paper-laminated cardboard) to General Merchandise Company of the 1940s-1950s. Determination appears based on the bottom abbreviation of G.M. CO., but what is the historical record of this company and of its product output? 

As of this writing, I find no iteration of a plausible General Merchandise Company referred to as G.M. Co. (for example  - The Treasury that was at one time named General Merchandise Company has no evident markings of G.M. Co. on its catalogs). As well, other than a few known series of holiday containers (for Easter, Valentines Day, Halloween see below marked G.M. Co), I find no other products via an internet search. Note that research is made difficult because general merchandise is a common term of business categorization such as dry goods; many businesses could describe themselves as a general merchandise company.

Halloween slot-and-tab box illustration of green-skinned witch flying through the night sky.

Witch driving a show, witch at a cauldron, cat driving a pumpkin, and black cat sailor with owl - circa 1940s.

Above are five of the six slot-and-tab candy containers that are known to exist in this series. This series is marked G.M. CO. HRS-A thru F (Not shown above is a skeleton with a JOL in a pull cart (A). These are said to be from the 1940s.

Large item series of pull toys dated to the 1940s by the GM Co. with flowing brush stroke illustrations.

The above item is from a small series of large-sized pull toys. This one is marked RH-6D-GM.  A skeleton with a JOL in a wheelbarrow is 6A, a cat with a JOL in a convertible is 6C, which should leave space for an as yet unidentified character 6B or perhaps more? In the same style as these pull-toys there is a large pumpkin-toy rocker marked as RH-7. These are said to be from the 1950s.

Do you have any firm information about G.M. CO. that would solve this interesting mystery?

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