Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Strato Bank

Can you believe banks in the 1950s used to give away things as cool as this, for free?  It's true! The Strato Bank was a promotional item given out to young customers, encouraging them to save their pennies, nickels, and dimes. The 8 1/4 inch long, cast metal mechanical bank originally had labels on the sides identifying its affiliated institution.

After loading a coin on top of the spaceship, a spring loaded mechanism blasts it into the moon with the press of a button. Super, super cool.

The coins go right in front of the little red plane on top of the spaceship, and the button just before the tail fin shoots them away.

I think we'd all like bankers a lot better today if they still gave us things like this.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Little Metal People

Meet my peeps: a bunch of vintage 1940s and '50s cast metal figures originally sold in the popular dime stores of the day. In the early '40s, these 3 1/4 inch toys sold for a nickel apiece...alas, such is no longer the case! Made by companies like Barclay and Manoil, whose lines were predominantly filled with toy soldiers, these 'average citizens' are a bit more scarce.

They remind me of characters from a film noir production...

For instance: this couple appears to be full of secrets. Where is the husband rushing to, his camel hair coat casually draped over his arm? Could it be a meeting with The Other Woman? And what is his wife carrying in that violin case? Is it really a violin, or, could it be...a gun?! Does she suspect something? She certainly looks suspicious: see how she's giving him the eye?

Could this shapely stewardess be The Other Woman? Probably.

And just what is this rather stout and fearsome nurse up to? Is she blackmailing one of the elderly twin bachelor millionaires in her care?


Yes, they look anxious and fretful, don't they? 

Perhaps the lady in blue can help...I'm sure she saw something.
She looks the curtain-twitcher type.

She's on her way to confide her worries to the Vicar. Such a sensible man, always knows what to do, and has such a calm manner, even after his unfortunate head injury:

But the Vicar can't really talk now: he has a wedding to attend! Hopefully this young couple's marriage will turn out better than that of our friends in the first picture.

Fortunately, grandma comes to the rescue, telling everyone to stop making such fusses, sit down, and have a slice of pie. Pie makes everything better, don't you know?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Patchy & Purple Peng Peng Bears

The miniature teds made by Chicago-based artist Peng Peng always amaze me. These two are done in one of my favorite styles, "stick bears" with giant heads on teeny, stick thin bodies, just 5 and 1/4 inches tall.

It was obviously love at first sight for these two.

The black and white bear features tie-dyed mohair, and sports a pair of handmade orange overalls.

His  purple friend wears a fabulous, tiny dress sewn from vintage fabrics.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Antique Paper Dolls

I see old, tatty stationery boxes all the time while antiquing, and I've discovered they're always worth opening, as sometimes there is something fabulous stored inside them. They were just natural places for children to stash their treasured possessions. Once, I found such a box contained a vintage 1960s troll and her extensive wardrobe. This time, the stationery box was even older (1920s) and quite dirty. Really, it was just filthy, and almost too much for even me to touch...

...but I did, and was I ever glad! Inside...treasures! Three antique paper dolls, complete with outfits, hats, accessories, and even some original pattern pieces.


The dolls were made by Dennison, a manufacturer primarily of paper party goods, decorations, and supplies. The jointed dolls are made from heavy card stock, and most of the clothes are of crepe paper, which Dennison used for many of its holiday decorations.
Some of the crepe paper clothes came printed with clothing designs, but other items looked as if they were cut and assembled by the child owner. The discovery of some hat pattern pieces in the bottom of the box confirmed this suspicion, and the patterns also gave the names of the dolls: Eleanor (the big sister), Betty, and Bobbie, the little brother.

From left to right: Eleanor, 10 inches; Betty, 8; and Bobbie, 7.

The dolls are marked "Dennison U.S.A." on the back.

 The hat patterns.

The hat patterns unfolded.

Here's Eleanor's wardrobe:

Eleanor in a pre-printed hat and coat.

 I love this flapper headdress!

 Eleanor in a child-made dress and hat.

Here's Betty's wardrobe:

Betty in a pink dress like her big sister's.

 My favorite outfit, made of fragile crepe.

Bobbie's wardrobe was not as extensive as those of his sisters, but he had a few interesting pieces, including a pirate costume and a bathing suit. 

Bobbie in his ruffly green suit.

Bobbie in his Halloween pirate costume. Arrgh!

When I packed the dollies back into their box, I noticed some writing on the cover. After some gentle brushing away of dust, the words became clearer:

"Margaret Johnston   
321 E. Liberty St."

It was very moving to consider these words, and try to picture the little girl who wrote them, and who loved these paper dolls so much, she saved them for almost 90 years...thank you Margaret Johnston!

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Bare Bear

I adore old teddy bears, the older and more worn, the better. A much loved bear silently speaks volumes about its long life. I feel very strongly that bears who have performed so many faithful years of companionable service deserve a comfortable retirement.

My latest such bear is this little 8 inch ted, circa the 1930s. She has lost every single strand of her mohair to moths, except for a very endearing little patch at the top of her head. Her nose and mouth have long since been kissed away, but her tiny glass eyes are, amazingly, still intact. She is without doubt one of the most worn bears I've ever purchased, but I think she is also one of the most characterful.

"Please take me home and give me some clothes," 
she seems to be saying.

The bear as found, bare and forlorn.

See? No mohair, nowhere.

After rummaging through a box of doll clothes assembled for just such emergencies, I outfitted the bear in a vintage polka dotted dress and added a pink ribbon. 


Ta-da! Here she is in her lovely 1950s tin toy kitchen. If she could still smile, you would see that she is very happy.