Marilyn Monroe Still Alluring At 90

marilyn monroe blowing out candle on cakeI continually swear that I’m not going to write, again, about Marilyn; but here I am again

I may have been able to to get away with a wistful smile & a re-Tweet or two in the honor of her 90th birthday. But then I discovered of the photo show in honor of the icon’s birthday — and from there, a very important fact that I had missed for low these X years.

In 2010, a collection of Marilyn’s personal journals, poems, letters, and the like was published in Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters by Marilyn Monroe, edited by Stanley Buchthal and Bernard Comment. (Can you even imagine having access to such intimate ephemera?!)

monroe notebook

As Lucy Bolton notes at the BBC, “This shows how the process of writing was integral to Monroe’s self care and well being. She could also be honest here, perhaps in a way that she couldn’t be elsewhere.” Including both the cruel and the kind. It’s the self-talk that fascinates me the most. Again from Bolton:

In her so-called Record notebook from around 1955 she writes that her “first desire was to be an actress” and that she is striving to work fully and sensitively, “without being ashamed of it”. Her drive to work on herself and her craft was merciless: “I can and will help myself and work on things analytically no matter how painful”, and she notes in her notebook a single line, “having a sense of myself” – as if the words ground her in some way and remind her of what she needs to keep in mind.

This is not just to be coveted for the personal diary of a celebrity aspect. This is the self-reflective artist at work.

remember there is nothing you lack – nothing to be self conscious about yourself – you have everything but the discipline and technique which you are learning and seeking on your own

And it’s the documentation of a woman’s life, which I find supremely interesting, most poignant, relateable. How many of us, sadly, can relate to these words of Monroe?

I guess I have always been deeply terrified to really be someone’s wife since I know from life one cannot love another, ever, really… starting tomorrow I will take care of myself for that’s all I really have and as I see it now have ever had

This is the stuff you miss when you swear off your collecting, your obsession. Oh, but how easy it is to be pulled back in! Another book on the wishlist. No; scratch that. I think I’ll buy myself a birthday gift early. I’m convinced it’s what Marilyn would want me to do.

Things That Go To Make Up A Life

In What Is Left Behind, photographer Norm Diamond takes a look at what most collectors see at estate sales: the cycle of life. And then he photographs the objects. Among the artfully preserved poignant moments, a bride’s wedding dress and photo (as well as her wedding night lingerie), and a burial receipt for a young mother and her baby who had died in an automobile accident…

norm diamond brides dress and photo

vintage wedding night lingerie by norm diamond

burial receipt photograph norm diamond

Diamond is now retired, but he previously worked with very ill people as an interventional radiologist. In an interview at Slate, Diamond admits his career likely affected him and this series:

I didn’t realize it until I had retired, but I think when you deal with people who are sick and dying all the time, your outlook on life is different than people who aren’t subjected to that. You don’t tend to be a glass-is-half-full person; you see some of the poignancy of life and some of the sad, tragic things that occur and that maybe part of where I’m coming from.

Diamond photographs some of the objects there at the estate sales; others he purchases and takes home to photograph. Either way, it’s a very moving series which reminds me yet again of that perfect line in Genesis’s Home By The Sea:

Images of sorrow, pictures of delight
things that go to make up a life

You can purchase copies of Diamond’s photographs here.

The Halloween Tradition Of Romantic Tricks & Treats

Halloween was once steeped in the tradition of belief that the veil between this world and the next was thinnest at this time of year and so was considered a time when fortunes could be best told. Not even the Victorian era and it’s designs to clean-up the naked bonfire bawdiness could quash that Hallowe’en tradition. In fact, the Victorian notions of romance and marriage quite fed such things. Especially the romantic sort of fortune telling, predicting whom you might marry.

halloween-bewitching-vintage-postcardIncluded in this historical paper trail are the antique and vintage Halloween postcards. There, among the now-so-traditional Halloween fare of witches and black cats, are the romantic Halloween postcards. Sometimes these are simply postcards with romantic prose, courtship rituals, or even wistful, hopeful sentiments. But there too, along with icons or symbols of witchcraft (such as caldrons, clocks, mirrors, and potions), there are the utterly charm-ing old postcards of spell-casting or divination. These discuss the magical steps one might take to find love and bind lovers. Some are quite clearly the stuff of parlor games.

There were quite a number of fortune telling games. Some, like the postcards, provided instructions. Others were of the oral tradition. For example, among the myriad of seasonal apple traditions is the one in which single ladies peeled an entire apple and then tossed the long peel behind them. The shape the apple peeling took was said to form the first letter of the first name of their future mate.

Along with these sorts of party games, there were dolls who might help a single lady out.

In the 1800s, both France and Germany made wooden, and porcelain, dolls with skirts over paper petticoats, of sorts. It was on the paper pages of the skirting that one found one’s fortune. Much like a fancier version of the paper fortune telling games played in schools now!

German Porcelain Miniature Fortune-Telling Doll Wooden Tuck Comb Doll as Fortune-Telling Doll

This is an antique wooden Grödnertal fortune telling doll. (So-named for the Grödnertal region of Germany where the original peg wooden dolls were made.)

Grödnertal Wooden Doll as French Fortune Teller antique

antique witch fortune telling doll

antique french fortune telling doll

In French these fortune telling dolls are known as “bebe a bonne aventure” dolls.

They are often depicted as witches or gypsies, which is rather keeping in the Halloween tradition.

See also: Collecting New Age Items From Old Eras.

Image Credits: Antique fortune telling dolls via, via, via.

Profiles Behind Vintage Silhouette Artists Are Shady

I have become completely obsessed. Again. This time, it’s about vintage silhouettes.

vintage silhouette portaits by paul 1934 lady wearing hat

Of course, in general the whole idea of “vintage silhouettes” (from a German village or not) may seem quaint in the 1930s. But remember, by this time it had been roughly a century since the art of silhouettes had been replaced by photographs. Silhouettes were quaint now. And it just goes to show you how we humans have long had a strong nostalgic streak. But there’s more to study here.

While I love the vintage fashionista who was compelled to have not one, but two, portraits of herself done at the 1934 Chicago World’s Fair (and I am quite enamored with her hat — which is either amply feathered or sports an actual bird!), it is the silhouette artist himself which mainly concerns me.

The (roughly) 6 by 4 inch cards of this pair of vintage silhouettes contain the following printed information:

Silhouette Portrait
Cut At The
Black Forest
World’s Fair, 1934
By “Paul”

Why would Paul’s name be in quotes?

Despite the fact that all the information is printed on stock cards, perhaps “Paul” was not one person, but rather there were many paper cutters playing the role of Paul. According to excerpts from letters written by Trudel, a young German Jewish woman who arrived in Chicago in May, 1934, various people worked cutting the silhouettes at the fair. (And *gasp* not all the people in the Black Forest attraction at the World’s Fair were German!)

A couple and a friend from Vienna are cutting silhouettes of people.

…My travel companions from Vienna I see every time I go there. The wife and friend work now in an exhibit called “Black Forest”.

It certainly makes sense, from a manpower point of view, to have multiple artists crafting silhouette souvenirs for fair visitors. However, I still don’t know what significance, if any, the name Paul has to do with cutting silhouettes. Do you?

There is evidence that “Paul” was around creating silhouette souvenirs for folks at other World’s Fairs. At least through the 1964-65 World’s Fair in New York. However, by that time not only were the boards the paper silhouettes were adhered to blacked-out to give the illusion of a a frame with an oval opening, but Paul’s name was given a scripted look (which looks more like a signature — but isn’t, it’s still printed on the paper) and the quotes around his name had disappeared. Also, I’ve also seen silhouettes from World Fairs which had no names or artist identification at all. So it’s more than a bit confusing — to the point where one doesn’t know if “Paul” and Paul are even referencing the same artist (or conceptual artist, as the case may be).

If anyone knows more about Paul, “Paul”, or these silhouettes, please do share. I cannot save (hoard) all these things, but I really, really, really do want to know the story behind old items like this!

Antique Real Photo Postcard Featuring Female Backsides

Another “stumper” old photograph featuring the backs of women, this one, from bondman2, is a real photo postcard, circa 1910s. We’re still hoping to hear more about these photos, so if you know anything, please share!

Collectors Are Like Artists; Collections Like Works Of Art

Combining my usual theme of collectors being curators, just like museum curators, with digital or online curation comes this story of New York collector Peter J. Cohen. Cohen snapped up vintage and antique snapshots of women — among other things. Over the course of decades, Cohen amassed some 20,000 photographs taken by amateurs. This particular collection contains 500 portraits of women.

The photographs, taken in the US between 1900 and 1970, each contain three females. Once the collection lived in a box labeled “Women in Groups of Three” in Cohen’s living room; but now the collection is called The Three Graces and it’s part of The Art Institute of Chicago’s collection.

The collection was shown at The Art Institute of Chicago last fall — but as Cohen donated the collection to the museum, they remain at the AIC which has promised to keep the collection together as an historical depiction of 20th century women in America. The AIC’s graciously put up an online gallery of the collection for you to look at, and put out a lovely hardcover book too: The Three Graces: Snapshots of Twentieth-Century Women.

I love how Cohen’s friend, Stephanie Terelak, captures the essence of photograph collection:

The lines of collector, curator, and artist are blurred in this case. Individually, these photographs are worth very little, probably a few dollars on ebay I would guess. But amassed, sorted, and curated in large specific groups, seemingly worthless stuff on ebay becomes art and the collector becomes artist, selecting each piece to belong to a greater whole that our best museums’ curators deemed worthy of their walls.

This can nearly be said of any collection. Collections are works of art, like collages or mixed media projects — or bonsai trees. Often continuously in process, collections are nearly alive with the story narrated by each individual collector’s act of collecting. Each curates — feeds and prunes — for meaning and growth as well as with an artistic eye, to tell stories with objects.

Museum desired collection or not, this is why I love collecting. Not just personally, but professionally too. I love connecting people with the items, objects, and stories they need to complete their collection — or at least assist them in their artistic process.

A Question On Collecting Antique Photographs

My folks, Antiquips, recently listed this antique photograph of two ladies with their backs to the camera.

Aside from just being an odd pose (especially when photography was more of an event than it is today), and so a way to define or refine your photograph collection, does anyone know if the pose has any other significance?

See more antique photos with people posing with their backs to the camera here.

Girl Scouts Centennial

Girl Scouts of the USA Turns 100

The Girl Scouts were founded on March 12, 1912, so this year marks the 100th Anniversary of the Girl Scouts. (Yes, there’s a Girl Scout patch for that!)

Along with a national event to be held March 10-11 at the Mall of America, many troops are planning celebrations. For example, Girl Scouts from across southeast Louisiana will be celebrating with an Extravaganza on Saturday, March 17 in Gonzales. Part of this event will include a historic exhibit showcasing Girl Scouting over its 100 years — and volunteers are seeking memorabilia to include in this display. “Vintage Girl Scout uniforms, photos, books, newspaper articles, or any other Girl Scout-related items are welcome,” said Kevin Shipp, event coordinator.

If you’re a collector of Girl Scout items, or a former Girl Scout with goodies saved, contact your local Girl Scout troop or council to see how you can add to the celebration near you. You may also want to participate in their Oral History Project.

Of Valentino, Mineralava Beauty Pageants & Pink Powder Puffs

As a feminist, I have a complicated, conflicted, relationship with beauty pageants. But this vintage booklet from the 1923 Mineralava Beauty Pageant fascinates me because of the man involved: Rudolph Valentino.

Not just some master of ceremonies, Valentino was both the star and the prize of this contest: “The Most Beautiful Woman In America May be the Leading Lady of Valentino’s Next Picture.”

When the silent film star walked out of his Famous Players-Lasky (FP-L) contract in 1923, the studio suspended him without pay and won an injunction that prevented him from working for another studio, leaving the decadent dandy desperate for money. In Rudolph Valentino & the Mineralava Tour of 1923, Edward Lorusso explains:

Desperate for money, Valentino and Rambova decided to create a dance act and tour the country for Mineralava Beauty Clay cosmetics. Starting in New York City’s Century Theatre at a benefit for the Actors Fund on a bill with Will Rogers and Jeanne Eagels, the couple caused a sensation and received 20 curtain calls. Valentino was stampeded by 300 fans as he left the theater. A Boston headline claimed “10,000 Girls Mob World’s Greatest Kisser.” The mobs became so predictable that Valentino and Rambova often escaped theaters over rooftops. The couple performed in 88 cities in the United States and Canada during a grueling 17-week tour. The hysteria followed them wherever they performed.

The dance tour garnered a tremendous amount of publicity and earned the couple a big weekly salary plus a percentage of the gate. They broke house records in several theaters. But while Valentino was mobbed by hordes of fans in every city, local newspaper coverage often sniped at his romantic movie image and professional dancing as being “unmanly.” Plus, Valentino was hawking beauty products that he claimed to use himself.

Following the example of dance idols Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis, the Valentinos created exotic dances and sumptuous costumes to the accompaniment of their own traveling orchestra. They performed a number of dances, but the tango routines were the ones that always brought down the house.

The beauty contest (the Miss America contest started in 1921) was another publicity angle of the tour. Mineralava sponsored a contest in each of the tour’s 88 cities and Valentino “judged” all the contestants. Then all 88 beauties descended on New York City, where they were paraded up Fifth Avenue to the Madison Square Garden. A young David O. Selznick made a short film of the contest called Rudolph Valentino and His 88 American Beauties; the film survives and is a fascinating glimpse at a “natural” Rudolph Valentino as well as the beauty contest styles of the day. Selznick shows the terrifying hordes of people who mobbed the streets outside Madison Square Garden, hoping for a glimpse of Valentino. Inside the Garden, the 88 girls come out onto a stage that is surrounded by crowds. Each girl (most with bobbed hair and bee-stung lips) parades in a gown and sash proclaiming her city and carrying (for some unknown reason) a ribboned Bo-Peep staff.

More details on the tour here, including a list of the tour stops.

Along with being a great advertising piece, I find this vintage booklet to be a lovely little piece of women’s history, combining the power of the women as consumers with their status as prey for marketers. Along with the testimonials from “women in American Homes,” collectors of silent film will also enjoy all the celebrity endorsements from silent film stars such as Nazimova, Mae Murray, Marion Davies, and Marie Prevost.

Other items from this beauty pageant tour can be found too. Donna L. Hill, author of Rudolph Valentino The Silent Idol: His Life in Photographs (who also runs Rudolph-Valentino.com, owns this original trophy from the Mineral Lava Beauty Contest in Baltimore. (The Baltimore contestant came in third overall in the national contest.)

Along with trophies, Mineralava gave out boudoir dolls of Rudolph Valentino and Natacha Rambova to contest winners.

As fabulous as this pageant was for Valentino (it did get him a better contract — if also assisting in the “Pink Powder Puff” slur) and, one presumes, Scott’s Mineralava Beauty Clay, at the time, the story doesn’t really end well… Valentino’s life lasted just a few more years and Mineralava seems only a footnote in the life of Valentino.

Image Credits:
Images of the 1923 Mineralava Beauty Pageant booklet, measuring 5 1/2 by 8 inches, via Grapefruit Moon Gallery.

Photo of the Mineralava trophy belongs to Donna L. Hill; found via Cinema OCD.

Old newspaper archive photo of Rudolph Valentino and Natacha Rambova boudoir dolls found in The Doll of Choice by Movie Stars & Naughty Girls, by Linda Wulfestieg (published in Contemporary Doll Collector, March 2009).

Whitney Houston Auction Raises The Question: Is Collecting Movie Memorabilia Morbid?

While some folks (who, themselves, live in glass houses) cry, “Beyond Tacky!”, Julien’s Auctions is going ahead with plans to auction off Whitney Houston items at their 2012 Hollywood Legends auction to be held on Saturday, March 31 and Sunday, April 1 in Beverly Hills, California.

Among the over 800 items of Hollywood memorabilia and historic Americana, the Houston tems up for sale include a pair of earrings and a brown satin vest worn by Whitney in The Bodyguard (1992) as well as a black velvet dress owned by the legendary performer.

Celebrity auctioneer Darren Julien said Sunday the pieces and other Houston items became available after the singer’s unexpected death on Feb. 11 and will be included among a long-planned sale of Hollywood memorabilia such as Charlie Chaplin’s cane, Clark Gable’s jacket from “Gone With the Wind” and Charlton Heston’s staff from “The Ten Commandments.”

Julien said celebrity collectibles often become available after their namesakes die.

“It proves a point that these items, they’re an investment,” Julien said. “You buy items just like a stock. Buy at the right time and sell at the right time, and they just increase in value.”

But could it be too soon to profit from Houston’s passing? She was just buried on Saturday.

“It’s a celebration of her life,” Julien said. “If you hide these things in fear that you’re going to offend someone — her life is to be celebrated. These items are historic now that she passed. They become a part of history. They should be in museums. She’s lived a life and had a career that nobody else has ever had.”

Houston is “someone who’s going to maintain a collectability,” he said. “For people who are fans of Whitney Houston and never would have had a chance to meet her and never got to talk to her, these are items that literally touched a part of her life. They are a way to relate to her or be a part of her life without having known her.”

Whatever you think of profiting off celebrity, in life or after death, this isn’t anything new. Julien’s, naturally, takes the rather pragmatic position of collecting entertainment memorabilia as investment:

Accumulating these coveted treasures is often a twofold endeavor; obtaining tangible nostalgia and making a sound investment choice. Acquiring such a collection gives buyers the opportunity to gain intimacy with fond memories anchored in the property. The other reason is based on the steadily increasing prices, which has been recently noted as a solid asset for Wall Street investment bankers and executives around the globe.

And why shouldn’t they? As a culture, we stalk celebrities by collecting, alive or dead.

If there is any such thing as a cultural rule about the length of time which ought to pass before we profit by selling off items connected to a recently deceased celebrity, it is far less a matter of morbidity and more a matter of our capitalistic nature. The market dictates that we bid as high as our emotions run; and emotions run pretty high when there’s a death.

As my friend and fellow columnist at Collectors Quest said upon the passing of Michael Jackson, “One’s fame is directly proportional to how fast people will learn the intimate details of your life, or death, as the case may be… Where celebrity meets mortality, there is eBay.”

Celebrities thrive by this very rule — they use our emotions to sell us less than proper things while alive, such as Michael Jackson “Thriller” panties. So why wouldn’t we buy-buy-buy when they die?

Etiquette rarely, if ever, applies to celebrity.

And how can Perez, of all people, complain about this when he’s “beyond tacky” and a “bloodthirsty” parasite living off celebrities himself?

I’m not sure there’s anything inherently wrong with buying Whitney Houston’s movie-worn clothing weeks after her death than there is buying Clark Gable’s jacket from Gone With the Wind decades later. Do you?

Related: See my article at Collectors Quest on the dangers of Certificates Of Authenticity (COAs).

Button, Button, Who’s Got The Button?

If you collect vintage fashions, you tend to end up with a lot of heartbreakers — not only items which won’t fit, but garments which are in such poor shape, all you can do is salvage pieces of fabric, buttons and other trims. And if you collect vintage sewing items and notions, you typically end up with a lot of vintage buttons too. You can certainly collect buttons. But if you’re looking for another way to enjoy them, get creative!

Dream Merchants II has taken old fabric-covered buttons and combined them with beads to make a one of a kind bracelet!

The buttons and beads are woven onto heavy duty beading wire, with the last button going through a loop at the end to fasten it. (She also takes custom orders, if you are all thumbs working with suck little bits and bobs.)

ThatOldBlueHouse2 takes old buttons and adds them to charm bracelets for extra charm, color and texture.

Vintage buttons can even be given the spotlight and be placed in settings, like the jewels they are. This green one is from 2fillesdunord.

At CountryCoveCreations, old buttons are used to create pins or brooches — like this colorful mod one where the retro buttons are layered on a retro plastic belt buckle.

All great ideas to preserve something from vintage fashions, a special occasion dress, or even a favorite shirt that no longer fits.

Airspun In Central Park

This photo, titled Makeup, Central Park, was taken by Frank Paulin 1955.

The photograph itself is a 20 x 16 inches gelatin silver print, signed and dated on verso. But what’s most fascinating to me is the powder compact, clearly from Coty. The Coty Airspun powder-puff design debuted in 1939 and now has been around so long it’s iconic enough to be spotted easily.

Vanity: Thy Name Is Woman

One of the things I love most about this vintage photo of a woman (obviously showing off her stockings in an erotic “French postcard” way) is the old boudoir doll on the vanity. You don’t see a lot of photos of boudoir dolls!

Antique Rug Shuttle Needles

Like I said, I’m becoming a resident vintage and antiques expert at Listia. Recently I was helping identify an item listed as “Tell Me What This Is” — headlines like that will always pull me in. *wink*

I immediately knew what it was, as I own several of these items myself. It’s a rug making shuttle or a rug shuttle needle. I know because the box on my Betsey Ross Rug Needle tells me so!

I just had to have this one because of it’s ties to women’s history, the fact that it had it’s original box, and the wicked looking nature of the tool itself.

Since then, I’ve been able to identify the other old wooden ones that I’ve ignorantly wound-up with over the years, being in auction box lots of old sewing and things.

I’ve not put any of mine into use yet, but it’s rather simple — the wooden “shuttle” pushes or prods the metal piece which pushes or prods the fabric strips through material backing, such as burlap, etc. It’s rather easy to see the process in these photos of my old wooden 1100 Kirkwood Of Des Moines shuttle.

Rugs including rag rugs made this way are often called “proddy rugs” for this prodding action.

While in my original comments at the auction at Listia I focused on the proddies (the strip of fabric in the Listia auction photo “prodded” me into thinking of those *wink*), these are also used to make “punch needle” style rugs too. Punch needle rugs are much like rug hooking, only you punch the thread or fabric through the back of the canvas rather than using the latch hooks most hobby kits have today.

Here’s what the Betsey Ross, ATK Product, box has to say:

Directions:

Thread as shown, push needle point through canvas and operate handles up and down, keeping the bottom of one of the handles on the canvas at all times and move toward the right. The length of the stitch can be regulated by bending the needle in for short stitches and out for long stitches, always be sure to have the yarn or rag free from tension so the loops will not pull out when the needle point is raised up and down. To get a chenille effect clip the loops with scissors. With a little practice beautiful rugs can be produced with this needle.

Rug shuttles like this may still be made; but I prefer to use older items myself — makes me feel like I’m part of the tradition and closer to the women who crafted this way. I’m no Betsey Ross, either in historic terms or crafting proficiency, but just owning this makes me feel closer to her and generations of women who once had such skills. My hands sweat where another’s once did. Or, rather, mine will once I find the time to sit down and give rug making a try.

I probably need to stop writing about antiques and collectibles to find that time, huh? *wink*

For further reading, I suggest quilt and hooked rug restorer Tracy Jamar‘s article A Few Loops Of Hooked Rug History and this basic page on hooked rugs at Red Clover Rugs.

Foxy Vintage Postcard Stories

Many people collect postcards for what’s on the front… Maybe they collect real photo postcards, or vintage images of animals on postcards, or antique images of cities… Maybe they collect by artist or publisher. But some of us fall in love with what’s on the backs of the postcards.

Some postcards were used as contest entry forms, or direct response responses, like this vintage postcard requesting a Sergeant’s dog book. But perhaps even better than that, are the handwritten notes — like little glimpses into lives, short stories as sweet as snapshots.

Here’s an example:

Seward, Alaska
Aug. 12, 193(3?)

Dearest Aunts:

At last we are back on the coast again (and much too soon to suit us). The Kenai Peninsula camping trip we have had these last two weeks has been unbelievably glorious. One very interesting place we visited is the biggest and most scientific fox farm in Alaska on Kenai Lake not far from Moose Pass. (?) Mrs. Williamson (she attended the V. of California) showed us around their farm and we handled this very tame silver fox.

Lots of love, Ben

I’m guessing, from this article on the fox farms of Kenai, that the postcard’s Mrs. Williamson was Harriet “Mickey” Williamson; but I have no idea about Ben or his unmarried Aunts.

Call me a romantic, but I like to imagine or create their stories… How the “spinster” sisters enjoyed the postcards from Ben. Who Ben traveled with. For how long… And, of course, that the tame silver fox lived to a ripe old age, despite his “scientific” home at a fur farm.

Image Credits: 1930s real photo postcard of a woman with a fox on her shoulders, via Lynnstudios.

From Suffragettes To Grave Robbers: The Grand Magnificence Of Charles Halls Miniature Metal Figures

Since I love all things pertaining to women’s history, from kitschy to suffragette, I’ve become smitten with these eight female figures in a suffragette band:

I’d never seen anything like them before, so here’s what the seller, dahntahntoys, has to say about them:

54 mm solidcast women’s Suffragette Band by Charles Hall, bought in 1970s at the MFCA show. Eight pieces in mint condition. See photos. Colorful Victorian era female musicians and placard carriers for Women’s Right to Vote.

That still didn’t tell me very much, so I began to research Charles Hall.

Information is disappointingly scant. Charles Hall is said to have been a former police officer in Glasgow, Scotland who started his scale miniature toy production with some Scottish regiments figures about the mid 1970s. Eventually, he produced up to 350 different figures.

According to a collector known as Bill The Bandman (who has some Charles Hall band sets and other toy soldier bands available for sale on eBay):

During the 1970’s when Britains where not producing metal band figures;three prolific makers emerged in the English speaking world. They all made complete lines from their own masters and moulds. …The least know was a Scottish maker who named his line after himself CHARLES HALL.

Charles produced two areas of personal interest to himself from 1975 t0 1985 which were German Bands and Salvation Army Bands. In the early 1990’s Hank Anton of the USA bought Halls moulds but never produced very many sets from the line.

Along with the suffragettes, there are Dixieland jazz bands (and other bands with black musicians) and the largest variety of Salvation Army figures ever issued.

But Hall also seems to have specialized in miniature scale versions of many civilian figures, including fictional characters, figures such as Scotland Yard’s finest, Laurel & Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Hitler, Dracula, the beautifully odd Burke and Hare (Edinburgh’s most infamous grave robbers), and others… Including, perhaps, the most interesting miniature collectible toy pieces: Hitler and oddball Nazi caricatures.

I’d love to hear from collectors or anyone who knows more about Charles Hall and his wonderful scale miniatures!

For further information, collectors recommend Collecting Toy Soldiers, by Richard O’Brien.

Image credits: Charles Hall suffragette band photos via dahntahntoys; Charles Hall of Scotland figures, “listed as Camerons,they look to be Gordons,” via Treefrog Treasures Toy Soldier Forums; Dixieland band set of figures by Charles Hall via Bill The Bandman; Holmes & Watson by Charles Hall, via James H Hillestad’s article on Sherlock Holmes; Charles Hall Edinburgh Scotland “Burke and Hare the Body Snatchers” with Coffin and Corpse, circa 1985, via Live Auctioneers; Adolph Hitler (black overcoat at salute, 1978), S-Trooper Hitler caricature (on a spotted mule) and a caricature of a pregnant Irma Griese (1979), via Bill The Bandman.