Heartiest New Year Greetings!
A simple, but straightforward, Happy New Year greeting from Edgar and Lewis Reed from 73 years ago.
May the year ahead be all you want it to be.
This blog author would like to wish all the visitors and subscribers to this blog a very Happy New Year and all the best for a happy, healthy, and successful 2023. Thank you all for your support and for being loyal readers throughout the past year.
Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for 2023!
Christmas 1944, exactly 78 years ago this holiday season, marked the last Christmas of World War II. The 1940s was a decade shaped by war, but the Christmas spirit and the act of good fellowship and kindness was still important to people even in times of hardship. The vintage holiday print ad below from Reed Brothers Dodge offers a window into how businesses of the 1940s pictured an idealized holiday season.
I would like to wish everyone who finds time during the course of your day to visit this blog a very Merry Christmas and a safe and healthy Happy New Year in 2023.
Christmas Trees and Snow Villages from a Hundred Years Ago
With only a few days left until Christmas, I thought it might be fun to take a look at some photos from Lewis Reed’s collection that show us what Christmas trees used to look like 100 years ago. In those days, there was not wide-spread agreement on exactly what a tree should look like, which made for a lot of creativity. Not surprisingly, they were very different than the perfectly shaped tress we have on display today.
The trees were big back then and always fresh. They went right to the ceiling and were very wide. Early Christmas trees were generally fastened onto a flat board surrounded with fence-rails, snow villages and carpeted with cotton blankets of snow. The tree in the photo below has an abundance of tinsel, which grew in popularity to the point that, by the 1920s, it was common to nearly cover the tree in the decorative material.
So, what is tinsel (aka icicles) exactly? Originally made from strands of silver alloy, tinsel was in fact first used to decorate sculptures. It was only later that it became a Christmas tree decoration, employed to enhance the flickering of the candle flames. In the 1950s, tinsel became so popular that it was often used as a substitute for Christmas lights.
So, where did Washingtonians get their trees?
From The Evening Star, Washington, DC 23 December 1923:
Conduit Road on the long stretch between Glen Echo and Great Falls for many years has been a favorite hunting ground where hundreds and hundreds of families have customarily obtained scrub pine trees for Christmas week. Usually there is plenty of holly and some mistletoe to be found in the rugged and rolling hill lands which are the gateway to Great Falls.
There’s a fine art to decorating Christmas trees that’s been developing since over 100 years ago. People consider lights, garland, ornaments, skirt, and more. But one thing that’s hard to resist sometimes is just filling every available space with decorations. Clearly, that was the case years ago too. What I like about these trees is that they are so randomly shaped and even misshapen. Folks back then didn’t trim them down to a more aesthetically pleasing symmetry like we do today.
The tradition of building miniature Christmas village landscapes, including houses, animals, and other hand-crafted wooden figures, began with the Pennsylvania Dutch in the late 1800s. Mass-produced cardboard houses, sold in dimestores, became popular in the mid-20th century. Today, these villages in good condition can be highly collectible.
Below are photos of Lewis Reed’s snow village set up under the Christmas tree decorated with vintage ornaments, tinsel, and lights. I don’t remember the odd-shaped Christmas trees, but I do remember having a lot of fun helping my grandfather set up the miniature landscapes with the varied figures, little houses, and trees at Christmastime each year. It seemed like a holiday village right out of a storybook.
The snow villages were set up in Lewis Reed’s basement on top of a big table beneath a small Christmas tree. He made the snow scenes entirely by hand using wire-covered cardboard and balled up paper to make hills and pathways. The little houses and figurines would fit into the landscape with cotton ‘snow’ all around; and lights would be wired underneath.
These Christmas villages were precursors of the Holiday Villages that were made popular by Department 56 that you see today.
Wishing all of you who have stopped in to visit a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Stay safe and enjoy the holiday season with friends and family!
Dear Santa, Please Pause Here
This special post doesn’t have anything to do with Reed Brothers Dodge history, but it does have a lot to do with the founder’s daughter, Mary Jane (Reed) Gartner. In her younger years, Lewis Reed’s daughter (my mother) was a very talented ceramic and china painter. She painted the ceramic tray of Santa (below) for me Christmas of 2000 and entered it in the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair. Seventy-eight years old at the time, she won First Premium Prize. The tray is currently displayed in my dining room china cabinet and evokes memories of my childhood and makes me happy every time I look at it. I hope you enjoy this special post.
Some background about the image
Have you ever heard of an artist named Haddon Sundblom? No? Well you’ve seen his work. You could say he’s one of the most famous character designers ever. He created the iconic Santa we all know and love. The image, “Santa, Please Pause Here” was originally created by Haddon Sundblom who was commissioned by Coca-Cola company to develop advertising images using Santa Claus. He may have been paid as much as $1,000 per painting—a lot of money at that time (you could buy a car for $700). Based on Clement Clark Moore’s descriptions of St. Nick in “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” Sundblom’s Santa Claus emphasized the rosy cheeks and snow white beard along with the now familiar suit and hat. A wide leather belt and brown boots completed the look.
From 1931 to 1964, Sundblom’s creations for Coca-Cola had Santa pictured as doing everything from delivering toys (and playing with them!), pausing to read letters, visiting with children who had waited up to meet him on Christmas Eve, raiding the refrigerators of several homes, warming his feet by the fire, and other activities — always with a bottle of Coke in hand or nearby. The Sundblom Santa became so popular that the images spread from print ads onto billboards, posters, calendars, plush dolls, and more.
Below, is the original Coca-Cola Santa Claus painting and sketches by Haddon Sundblom.
In 2001, Haddon Sundblom’s Santa Claus was creatively brought to life in a Coca-Cola ad video tribute, animated by the Academy Award-winning animator Alexandre Petrov.
So the next time you envision Santa Claus and maybe even have a simultaneous unexplained craving for a Coca-Cola, please give a wink and nod to the artist Haddon Sundblom. He was instrumental in defining the image of Santa Claus for us all.
Wishing the very best of the holiday season to everyone, and of course, Merry Christmas!
A Look Back at What Halloween in Montgomery County Looked Like 100 Years Ago
Ever wondered how Montgomery County families celebrated Halloween 100 years ago? Thanks to the these photographs from Lewis Reed’s collection, we can travel all the way back to 1914.
At the turn of the century, women often wore their regular clothes topped with homemade masks. The first Halloween costumes were usually worn by women and reflected the idea of masquerades that was extremely popular in the early 1900s. People only began to buy manufactured costumes in the second and third decades of the 20th century.
Oh the good ol’ days, when wearing a mask was enough to be dressed up for celebrations! Do you know how your ancestors’ celebrated Halloween? Newspapers are a great source to get a better understanding of life in the past. This special post is a look back through newspaper articles and Lewis Reed’s photographs at how Halloween was celebrated 100 years ago.
Stocked Stores: Stores were stocked with all the Halloween supplies needed for a fun celebration. Below is an ad for costumes and masquerade suits for those participating in Halloween parties and other seasonal affairs.
Dancing and Parties: Halloween parties and dancing were enjoyed by many. Some announcements even included a list of guests in attendance!
Here is the description of a Halloween party from the Society Section of the November, 1916 issue of The Evening Star (Washington, District of Columbia):
A Halloween party was given last evening… and a merry evening spent by those present. The reception hall, living and dining rooms were artistically decorated with autumn leaves, lanterns, chrysanthemums and orange and black streamers. The evening was spent in old-fashioned games, concluding with the entire assemblage gathering about an open fireplace in the dark, while the guests were led by a ghost through various parts of the darkened home. The evening’s entertainment concluded with music, dancing and the serving of refreshments.
Any sort of Halloween festivities demanded some sort of refreshment. In addition to traditional pumpkin pies and molasses cookies, a suggested dish to serve at Halloween parties was a Halloween salad.
Halloween Pranks: Witches and goblins, ghosts and mischief-making youngsters were permitted to enjoy all the Halloween revelry they liked … BUT DON’T THROW FLOUR. Yes, apparently in the early 1900s, there wasn’t much to do for entertainment, so kids would knock on doors on Halloween night and throw flour at whoever answered. To the modern observer, some of the traditions of Halloween 100 years ago are downright bizarre.
Halloween Parades: Halloween parades actually began because pranks and mischief had gotten out of control. By 1920, there was a push to turn Halloween into a holiday centered around community gatherings and festive Halloween parades, rather than mischief.
Wishing all my friends, followers, and visitors of this blog a very safe and happy Halloween!