Note: This is an archive of "Papa" Ted Althof's online tribute to cardboard Christmas "putz" houses and their history. At Ted's request, this archive was established in early 2012. Except for critical updates and announcements, it will remain exactly as Ted left it in October, 2012.
For more information, please scroll to the bottom of the page.
*House of the Month*Featured Christmas Houses of the Month 2005
- 2005 -
Silo? Lighthouse? Rocket Ship?
WHAT IS IT???
This piece came up on eBay among dozens from a single, original collection put
together in the 1930s(1934-1940)just before Christmas. This was one of about 100 all
from the same estate in Chicago. I can't say it's the prettiest or Christmasiest
house I've ever seen, but it is certainly the most unique. None of my network of
collectors have seen one of these before. As with Tom Hull's "Christmas Tree House,"
it's likely the only surviving specimen of it's kind. It was auctioned as a "silo,"
but my own feeling is that it's supposed to be a lighthouse, over looking the fact
there is no light on top. What would be your guess?
The tower is 8" high, the base 8 3/8" wide by 5 3/8" deep - quite large for a
Note that the tower is collapsible, telescoping in three sections for storage. The
whole thing is in like-new condition, and this feature probably saved it.
Closer views: There is some debate as to whether that Santa is original,
because the sole defect of the piece is that it has been glued on with a hideous blob
of hot glue. Also, it's a larger, more elaborate bisque Santa than usually seen on
the Haciendas," but that doesn't bother me. It's a very large piece for
a "Hacienda," and the rest of the collection was virtually unmodified, so I think it
is the right Santa that had simply broken loose. The "lightkeeper's house" is a very
simple and unremarkable one, seen often on other decorations such as candle holders
etc., but note the curious luffah arbor!
This represents the latest date among the pencilled inscriptions on the bottoms of
the large collection seen on eBay. From what we know, all of them were given as
Christmas gifts to add to a boy's train layout over a period years spanning 1934 to
1940. This has been an important dating confirmation of the "Hacienda Era."
Houses dated 1934 were "Coconuts." Houses dated 1935 or later
were almost exclusively "Haciendas." This confirms prior speculations
of the debut date of the "Haciendas" as 1935, and that it continues to
WWII,1941. Some thought this inscription to be 1946, but I doubt it very much. It's a
matter of clumsy pencilmanship on an unstable writing surface I am sure. There were
vestiges of the "Hacienda" in postwar houses, in particular the wash
effect on the bases of the 1950s types, but one did not see this level of imagination
and complexity again on this side of WW II.
What a shame this large collection had to be dispersed! It is obviously a Christmas
story of the traditional practice of one loving set of parents to their boy over a
period of 7 years that happened over 60 years ago.....a record that still reaches
over all this time.
For more examples of these houses with their dates, click on the following subsection:
"Be it ever so humble ..."
A snug log cabin for the dreary chills of
February.... and a very LARGE one, too! 8 1/2" wide by 5 5/8" deep,
and 4 7/8" high:- about as big as loggies come. The chimney top is exactly flush
with the roof ridge, probably for boxing and shipping reasons.
In addition to being large, this house has the unusual front-center placement of the
chimney and the little subroofs over the door and large main arched window. Note that
it is hand-highlighted in two colors additional to the basic dark grey. A very classy
"Be it ever so humble," - and yet this rural "mansion" has the very seldom-seen gold
bordered and panelled door. Gotta be a lucrative moonshine still back there behind
the woods, someplace ...
It's well-established that houses with base sizes roughly 5" by 4"
and smaller came in sets of 8 or were sold individually unboxed. The larger houses
came individually boxed.
These boxes were plain brown, very cheap and flimsy cardstock and almost totally
devoid of information or decoration of any kind.
Tom Hull presents us with a curious anomaly, here, in that we have a large
well-known PREWAR church in what appears to be a POSTWAR box, but that
is not neccessarily the case. Anyone who collects old Christmas lights knows there
were some wonderful graphics on boxes of the PreWar era. It's glossy and decorative
with trees and snow and the roll-sticker price tag says "F.W. Woolworth." I had
always thought that type of price tagging to be postwar, but perhaps not. The price
of 25 cents for a house this size seems prewar to me. It would have been 59 cents in
the '50s. I think it's probably a case of the store using it's general purpose
gift-boxes to re-package large houses in a more attractive manner.
Here's what Tom has to say about it:
"Here are the dimensions on the church. Base 7 1/16" X 4 1/4"; height to
top of roof 5", to top of cross 9 3/4" ( the steeple being removable). The
box IS very likely of American manufacture and was cleverly folded so that
neither glue nor staples would be required. No doubt shipped flat so that
they could be quickly assembled on site. There is a pencil mark on the corner above it that has been
scratched out - though illegible it is a group of numerals - either a
cost/price mark or inventory number. In the center is an intaglio "No 3"
mark. In the lower corner is the original "F. W. Woolworth 25c" mark. It
should be noted that the box isn't quite deep enough to completely hold the
base as the box dimensions are; 7 3/8" X 7 3/8" by 3 3/4" deep. Also the
simple deco style design of the decorated box seems to me very like some of
the early Christmas wrapping papers that I have in my collection."
Typical original Japanese box of the type used for the larger houses. One can faintly
see the price "25 C" penciled on the bottom, again affirming the belief that
the fancy box above is prewar, American and done at a particular retail store. Another
epiphany of observation is to be gleaned here. Note how the chimney top and
crest of the roof are flush. The reason is to fit the box! Many chimney heights are now
explained, as are removable church steeples and clock towers. Also the various base
The "HIGH SCHOOL": This is the second largest of the 6 known
"clock" houses. Not a house,not a church and rather "institutional" looking, we
dubbed it "The High School." It does look rather like some of the late 19 Century
schools I saw in my childhood.
A close up of frontal details and the windows. Kathi used "Papa Ted" CEL
windows and duplicated the original paper mullioning by building up layers as
she painstakingly painted over the gold ink lines with nail polish and a very
fine brush repeatedly until the desired thickness was acheived. Actually, a
lot of things have been repaired on this piece. Trim was broken, coconut lost. See
if you can tell. I can't! A lot of work, but with a piece this rare, well worth it.
Most every owner of one believes that this "HIGH SCHOOL" as shown is missing a
center section. Later, Kathi actually fabricated a flawless center section with
it's double entries from scratch - to be seen in the "1930s" SECTION under
"CLOCK HOUSES." But i am still not convinced it didn't come both ways.
There is absolutely no disruption of the flat coconut roof on the HOUSE of the
MONTH seen here. No glue lines or cardboard strips to fit it over. Perhaps one
of you lucky "HIGH SCHOOL" owners who obtained yours with all 3 sections can
tell us if your roof is also utterly unscarred or has some evidence that there
were provisions to hold a mid-section in place?
Kathi sent me three for May. I think because they
were not huge she felt felt she needed more, but size isn't everything. These are
This is a May bouquet of houses. All from around 1930 and they have been together
since then and deserve to be highlighted together. Alone they are a little bit
plainer, but together they feature all the interesting things you find in the old,
medium sized houses. SIZE: They are all 5 7/8" wide x 3 1/2" deep x 4 5/8" high
Look at the colors and how the colors are balanced and integrated
green occurs on one house walls in a sand finish, on another house as a coco roof,
and on thethird house as a coco base and fenceposts the white snow on the roofs is
coco on all three the white with black speckles finish is used on the porch base on
the magenta roofed house; and as the sand walls and porch of the blue-based house.
The bright colors:the cobalt blue coco base of one house; the purple foil roof of the
second house; the magenta foil roof of the third house. There are three different fence
types: multi-colored coco on the slotted fence; green coco on the straw fence; blue
coco on the crennelated fence the foil roofs are fabulous all three houses are "raked"
on their bases all three houses have the early slot-type windows
One porch has that really old treatment of the stairs on each side of the porch instead
of coming straight out One porch has that interestingly gabled bright red coco roof;
and the third house has the gable feature too. Later on, they left out that gable
end piece of cardboard, so these are EARLY. And check out that multi-headed tree
which seems to be original as far as I can tell. I did replace the red berries on
the tops of that one. Together these are such nice early examples with multi shapes,
colors, fence treatments, and finishes. All of the Santa and little girl statues are
original. I included a pic of the bases which all have the identical "made in Japan" in
the oval outline, although the ink colors are a little different on all three.
The proud owner sez: "I searched for this house for over 10 years after a
tiny photo of a similar house appeared in a
Brenner book. I got this house in an ebay auction last year. It is only the third
one I had ever seen. I missed the second one in an ebay auction long ago. The house
looks very plain, but it actually has several outstanding features: First, the chimney
is "articulated" and assymetrical, not just the usual rectangular shape.
Also, it is in the center of the front of the house, not on a side. I love the little
coco "roof-ette" where the chimney slopes up as it narrows. That detail is exactly like
they did it on real houses way back when.
The second noteworthy feature is the Santa, which is in "bas relief." The santa
figure is flat on the back and is glued to the face of the chimney. I have several
smaller houses with this kind of Santa. This is the biggest house on which I have
seen this kind of Santa treatment. And finally, the color scheme is exactly like that
in my circa 1939 master bathroom - salmon-y pink, pale green (almost chartreuse), and
white. Also notice the round punched holes in the fences.
The roof is red coco (but very worn), the house walls are salt and pepper sand
finish, the chimney is smooth, and the base and fences have a slight sand finish but
are completely covered in the finest, tiniest mica dust, which unfortunately doesn't
come through in the photos. The large window is a "Papated" replacement. The smaller
window is original. It has the oval "Made in Japan" stamp in black ink on the bottom.
However plain it seems at first, this really is a wonderful house.
Size: 6" wide x 3 5/8" deep x 4 1/4" high."
Caught in The Act!
I won't speculate on what "The Act" is, but I wouldn't
want to be caught at it any more than he does. I love this embarrased "Sneaky Santa."
He's clearly guilty. Would you want this guy lurking around your chimney? Me
An exceptional "printie" from the MYSTERIOUS PERIOD of 1928-1930.
"Perfect for the vacation season is this darling "transitional" house which reminds
me of a beach cottage. There are several later versions of similar houses, but this
one is EARLY. It has "printie" brick walls, "printie" shingle roofs with those big
dots of white snow that are on only found on the really early houses. The dormer
window is the stick-on type you see on the early "multis" and the candy box houses.
The larger windows are the same rectangle shape as later windows, but the cellophane
glazing has no gold printed mullions. Instead, the cellophane seems purposely
"frosted" with what seems like a thin wax finish. It doesn't clean off like a
build-up of dirt would, so I suspect it is original. Everything on this house is
original except for the orange porch posts, which are replacements and, like the
orange porch railing, have a sand finish. The original porch posts were made out of
rolled up paper, but so little paper was used, that the posts were crushed and in
tatters. Made me wonder if they later learned that they had to roll a reasonable
amount of paper, so the posts would not crush like these did. It was literally barely
two turns of paper that made the original posts. The blue corrugated fence is
fabulous, with the larger sized square wood posts. The back left post was made so
hurridly that the saw cut left a "flag" of wood that they just painted over. Obviously
no fancy hand-finishing. I photographed the fence in "plan" to show how the corners
are rounded in toward the porch. That is an early feature, too.
Santa will be spending a lovely summer on the beach in this wonderful cottage.
Size: 6" wide x 3 5/8" deep x 4 3/8" high"
- Kathi M. of Tucson, AZ (Owner's description.)
LAZARUS CANDY-BOX! I had the
base of this early candy box laying around in my "hospital box" for probably 20 years
and finally gave up on it, sending it to Tom Hull thinking perhaps he could construct
something. He did better than that; he actually found an original top to fit it!
This is a miracle. I will let him tell the rest ....
"Wow! Is this ever a lucky put together deal and I am convinced it is the right
house to go on this base. It fits absolutely perfectly
and is properly centered on the base. I believe this is an early and rare piece.
The only thing I had to do was put in a door and I stained the early bottle brush
tree dark green. (And of course cleaned the base and roof of the house). How could
an house part from Missouri (Kansas City area) and a base from Western Pennsylvania
get together so well?
This is probably a very early candy box house and has some unusual architectural
details some typical some not so. First this has both a hip roof and a gable roof.
The hip roof being most unusual. The chimney is higher than the roof line which is
an early feature and the way the picket balustrade on the "deck" is handled also is
an indication of being early. Not too many houses had decks like this one. The base
has a lip running around the bottom edge that I have only seen on houses that also have square cardboard
constructed fence posts. Notice also the many rectangular holes in the fence.
Additionally, the ancient bottle brush tree must have been an early feature as not too
long after this they were largely made from luffa sponges. The Santa is composition or
clay and has the unusual feature of having two flat prongs coming from each leg that
attaches him to the base. All in all a delightful andinteresting little house. How
could you have known you were giving me such a Christmas gift? Thanks again.
As ever - Tom Hull
As you can see the height of the original candy box could not have been any higher as
there is a separate panel at about the second story level of the house part. That must
be why there is no red paper covering for the windows in the second story. Not only
does this fit perfectly but the space to the left of the base part of the container
is designed to accommodate the chimney. Though I could not capture the vivid lime
green shade of this house exactly the paint looks like it came from the same pot!
An exact a match as anyone could hope for. And for the record it is NOT a gloss top
red roof. (I have the intensity of the red a little too high - it is actually more
PT again - This is a really early piece, representing the evolutionary period between
the old candy-boxes and the true village house. Not later than 1931, is my guess.
These are very rare.
(In Tom Hull's own words.)
"Here are some pictures of a Coconut "house" that I have had for some time and
thought you might want it to use in the September HOM. Nice purple and gold fall
colors too. It has an interesting pottery door. This is a fairly large, all coconut
house. If you want any more pictures I can take them and write up a description and
give dimensions.Picture was taken before the windows were repaired and the door
re-attached to the house. It was loose in the box when it arrived and had hot melt
glue on it which pealed right off. You can see where the clay had stuck to the house
behind the door. This door had a wire in it that had been folded up. I
straightened it up and inserted it through the original hole and reglued it."-tkh
"Here is another view from above showing the unusual depth of the "yard". With this
big of a yard one wonders why no figures since they obviously had a potter available
for the attached pottery door. This is a fairly large house having an 8 1/4" X
5 1/2" base and standing 5 1/2" tall. The widest depth of the house at the bay window
is 3". So it is pretty big in all dimensions. It is an all coconut
house that is balding on the white roof and not too much left on the base either but
the yellow is in great shape and the purple is not too bad either. Though the luffa
tree has been restored, it is the original one - just refurbished. This house has not
been cleaned as
it didn't need it. It is interesting that the gap in the "gambrel" roof is open and
light does come out here but not noticeably. The Christmas tree house was the same
way. The only other time I have encountered this open feature. The flat roofed dog
house is a bit unusual as well."- tkh
Amazing, from the Tom Hull Collection!
This quite a nice medium large coconut from the Tom Hull Collection.
The unique feature here is that both trees are on the same side! Tom swears
that it has not been tampered with ; that's how it was made.
Notice that strange little "hood scoop" on the roof behind the trees! What is that
all about? What is it supposed to be? Ah, the mysteries ..
I think the colors are wonderful and the size is 6 1/4" by 4" deep by 5" high.
Lakkies: Delicious Detail!
Larger house dimensions:
6 1/4" wide x 3 7/8" deep x 4 5/8" high
Smaller house dimensions:
5 1/2" wide x 3 3/8" deep x 3 7/8" high
Both are stamped "MADE IN JAPAN" in purple ink on the bottom.
These houses are absolutely wonderful "laquies," two versions of the same house, but
one smaller and slightly less fancy than the other.
The most special things are:
The sideways stairs to the entry porch on both houses.
The half round porch roofs above the doors on both houses.
The deeply embossed roof textures on both houses.
The mix of gambrel, gable, shed, half-round, and flat roofs on the larger house is
incredible, unique in my experience, and so visually interesting. The teeny tiny slot
windows next to the door on the smaller house are also unique in my experience. They
are rounded top and bottom.
The use of the faux-wood grain paper behind the cello on the front door of the larger
house is seldom seen. That is an original detail, also seen on the October 2000 HOM
(but not shown close up in that photo) The fence on the larger house is so interesting
and intricate. The fence on the smaller house is my favorite color of chartreuse.
Once you have one to enjoy, these laquies just grow on you. I don't know why they
aren't as collected as the cocos. I just love them, and these two are fabulous
examples of the laquie house type.
The "Flat-Iron Building:"
The Ultimate Clock House!
I was worrying how I could top off this phenominal year of 2005 for Christmas
until these long-promised photos came through. Trouble is, I don't see how I'll
ever top this one again! It's known among collectors as
"The Flat Iron Building," after the famous first skyscraper in New York
and is, presently, the only one
known to exist.
The base is 9" wide and 5" deep and it stands 11" high. The style and finish put
it somewhere between 1931 and 1933. It's early coconut,but still from that phase
when lots of great, nutty experimental things were briefly tried and never
As with many of the taller houses, the superstructures come off for shipping
and storage. That odd, offset chimney bother me a little. I wonder if something's
not missing? The other large, towering clock houses had a little roof.
You would at least expect some sort of trim ....
A view of the bottom shows the round "Made in Japan" early-'30s sticker, and the
amazing original condition.
I've promised not to tell who owns it or precisely where, but it's in
Canada. Vast, vast Canada. Far far from here!
On Feb.14,2006 another of these rare houses was
won on eBay for the record bid price of $1,224.99! See -
An extra little
..... from Kathi.
A fine, tall Japanese Santa with back-pack. about a foot tall. A common theme, except
this one is finished in "coconut!" - proving it wasn't only restricted
to houses. Excellent, kid intimidating "samurai" face .. "You better watch out!"
Well, gang - that does it for the year 2005. I start each new year of House of the
Month wondering if I'll find enough things to get all the way through, but ha!
This has really been the banner year of them all! The Chicago Dates and
Butler Brothers catalogs have filled out and firmed up The
Knowledge" like never before. Perhaps in the coming year we'll find that
Butler Brothers Holiday 1931, or proof positive the houses go back to WW I!
Whatever the case, the variations just never seem to run out and I am all the more
impressed by just how huge this little Christmas house thing really was.
May God bless us
each and every - and have us find the thing we miss most this coming year!
page | house
of the month | 2000
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Note: This archive was set up at Ted's request in early 2012, and, except for critical updates and
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