Wednesday, July 31, 2013

RELATED MUSINGS: Bouillon Cubes, Pipes, Vintage Christmas Ornaments AND Mr. F.W. Woolworth!

above collection currently  for sale from ETSY shop VintagePickle
In this hot weather, one often gets nostalgic for the cooler weather, snow and the holiday festivities that come with them! One interesting collectible which seems to be growing is vintage Christmas tree ornaments.

from the Pinterest site Antique Christmas Ornaments
Prior to the mid-1800s, most Christmas trees were decorated with candles, fruit, pastries in the shapes of stars, hearts and flowers and tinsel, which was first invented in Germany at the start of the 17th century.

In about 1847,  artist-craftsmen in the German town of Lauscha first began creating garlands of glass bead and ultimately, blown glass tree ornaments in 
the shape of fruits and nuts.
Justus von Liebeg

The silvery effect was developed and created in the 1850s by a man named Justus von Liebeg, with a silver nitrate solution swirled into the orbs after the glass shapes were cooled.  Afterwards, the ornaments were hand-painted and the capped with a metal top and hook. 

As an aside, Justus von Liebeg was probably one of the most brilliant chemists in history. Also a professor,  he is regarded as "father of fertilizer", popularized baking powder and developed a manufacturing process for beef extracts in a company he named Liebig Extract of Meat Company which later trademarked the well-known OXO brand of beef bouillon.

Germany was soon producing a variety of shapes including stars, fruit, and angels for export.

F.W. Woolworth, who had opened his first "5 Cent" store with $300 of borrowed funds on February 22, 1878 near Utica, New York, discovered Lauscha's baubles during a 1880 visit to Germany and began importing them. His first store was a failure, having located it in too small a commercial area.
F.W. Woolworth

On June 21,1879 Mr. Woolworth opened his second store, the " Great Five Cent Store"  in the larger, Lancaster, Pennsylvania area. This time, the store was a great success!  By 1910,Woolworth's had expanded to over 1,000 stores and Lauscha's imported ornaments were selling all over the United States.

Did you know that on November 5, 1908, Mr. Woolworth opened his first store outside the United States, in Liverpool, England?  Since "5 and 10 cents" would have no meaning there, it was called the "Threepence and Sixpence" store.

Alas, the original chain eventually went out of business in 1997 and transitioned into the Foot Locker chain.


 And now, back to Christmas ornaments.

 Below, an antique German ornament.
from the Pinterest site Antique Christmas Ornaments

In 1862, German immigrant William DeMuth founded a company in his own name specializing in pipes, smoker's accessories and cigar store figures. Ultimately becoming the largest pipe company in the United States, his items are now highly collectible, especially its meerschaum pipe carved in the likenesses of United States Presidents.  
Samples of Meerschaum pipes from a William Demuth mid-1870's catalog.

  In 1871, Mr. Demuth created the first American-made glass ornaments.  The importing of ornaments from Lauscha ceased during World War I and American-made ornaments were selling, but alas, they didn't live up to German craftsmanship.

Ultimately, the most popular vintage American Christmas tree ornaments in the late 1930s through the 1950s were made by The Shiny-Brite company .
from VintagePickle on ETSY

Though he also had imported glass ornaments from Germany since the turn of the century, businessman Max Eckardt had the foresight to realize that another World War, WWII, was on the horizon and would again disrupt his shipments.

Together with the Corning Glass Company, in 1937 he established the ‘Shiny-Brite” company to produce “American-made” ornaments which were bright, colorful and more importantly, inexpensive.

 Corning adapted their light bulb-making process to make glass ornaments, which were subsequently hand-decorated in Eckhardt’s factories.

It is easy to date these ornaments - one only need examine the hooks!

The earliest Shiny-Brite ornaments had the traditional metal cap and loop, with the hook attached to the loop in order to hang it from a tree.

During World War II the country needed to conserve its metal supply, so in the early 1940s the metal cap was replaced by a cardboard tab and hung onto a tree with string or yarn. 

After the war, the ornaments had a long wire hook that ran from the top and through the center of the ornament, exiting at the base, where it was attached to the ornament.

Sadly, Shiny-Brite closed its factories in 1962.