A CHRISTMAS VISIT
A classic '20s storefront! This is the Sport Mart at 1303 F St. N.W., Dec. 1923 in Washington D.C.
Here you see a portion of the Lionel "Early Period" line as it was between 1919 and 1924 - as they were displayed and sold in their Day. Lionel began transitioning to a whole new line and look of trains in 1924. "0" gauge trains in the foreground - one Standard Gauge set in the rear. And just look at all the other great toys in this window!
That's no cap-gun in the center, either!
Click here for giant, high-res blowup
Master View of the Store
Another storefront, same era. That's Lionel's largest 0 gauge train set prior to 1924, but missing one car.
Click here for blowup
This is the Dickey family of Washington, D.C. in 1923. Mr. Dickey was a prominent attorney.
Hauck Family. No other information available.
Blowup - COLORIZED!
This same picture turned up colorized. Whoever did this did an amazing job, but I preserve the black and white version because whoever did it could have had no way of knowing the original colors of all those ornaments and so on.
The Dickey family again - 1921.
1921. Remember Santa in space ships in the '50s? This is a publicity shot for a TB drive. Before we had penecillin, TB was the AIDS of Pre WW II days. Terribly contagious, you could pick it up from a pay phone or at the movies. Drives went on incessantly.
Dec.19, 1922 - Washington, D.C.: Rep. Vincent Morrison Brennan, R.-Michigan, eavesdrops on House proceedings via modern, convenient AM radio.
The Dickey family again - 1929.
That wind-up tin ship on the floor is to die for with collectors. They fetch prices beyond those of the rarest old trains today because guess what? They were meant to float on water and most have long since rusted out or were sunk! - but true works of beauty in their day.
All hand-soldered, hand-painted construction.
There are early 1920s lights on the tree, a pair of Lionel cars with what looks an Ives engine but no tender, so it couldn't have been coupled to those cars. A MARVELOUSLY crafted putz with working waterway, waterwheel and fountain -
- but as you see -
- no cardboard houses.
George Barkhausen family.
Dated 1924. "1,000 Toys in One."
Although this photo was labled "1947," I didn't believe it. That Lionel train and everything else I see are early 1920s. But in the blowup you can see an Auburn rubber toy car - definitely 1940s -the only giveaway. I'm leaving the picture here, anyway.
Scrutinize the kids. Some seem to have dirty faces, but really their cheeks are chapped by the cold outside and the dry hot air of steam heat indoors. A common problem in those days that was taken as normal. This is Macy's in New York - 1925.
Christmas in the Postal Dead-Letter Office. Also 1925.
An Oldsmobile dealership in 1921 - down the chimney and out!
Speaking of Christmas windows .. Saks Fifth Avenue, Dec 1920.
Sorry, PETA: Those were very different times.
Here's a fun Christmas party ..Volunteers of America - 1925.
Unidentified family - 1921.
Christmas 1921 for the James J. Davis family of Washington DC. The boy seems mystified as to why that big Pullman car floor toy won't fit on the American Flyer "O" gauge track. A rather modest Christmas for the U.S. Secretary of Labor under Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, wouldn't you say?
Dorsey family "Best Christmas Ever" -1922
A modest, but very tidy putz dated 1928 with a Lionel #253 engine pulling two "Classic Period" 610 cars.... and for the first time - a couple of very small Japanese cardboard houses! And don't you love the little "penny-toy" cars and trucks? Some of those could even have been Cracker Jack prizes. I can remember getting neat little metal toys from Cracker Jacks in the 40s. The prizes must have been even better in the '20s.
Those street lights are very simple bent and straight metal tubes on metal dish bases that came in sets of 8, as they were really a C-6 light-string in disguise. They were very inexpensive compared with the fancy Lionel and Ives train accessories and are still often found. Some say they were "Noma," but i don't know.
Dec 16,1923: Don Manuel Tellez -"Charge de Affairs" of Mexico - and family. The little girl is "Emily."
Did i say the "first Japanese cardboard houses" in the previous photo? What are these little houses all over the Tellez's putz? Gosh, i wish the quality were better!
(New Dec 2009 This one was sent by Rob Shoeberlein of the Maryland state Archives with the vague date reference that it was taken before the 1920s, but there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this is sometime between 1918 and the mid '20s. The boy's costume is a dead give away to the early Twenties, but mainly it's the train makes me certain. That's Lionel's humble #33 locomotive pulling three humble #100 series Standard Gauge freight cars. The #114 boxcar has been added to Lionel's smallest starter set #37. It still has just the circle of track that came with that set. ( 42" diameter circle for size reference.) Production of this "Early Period" style ceased in 1923. We see also see that the locomotive's headlight has been replaced with a C-6 Christmas light cone bulb, as often happened with the old trains because they fit the same sockets, and those style bulbs were not available pre WW I. We also see three of Lionel's street lights - two #58s and one #57 "Broadway." These streetlamps were available from the mid teens to the 1950s, but not that kind of train. These early sets were rather tinny and poorly engineered, but nevertheless expensive!" That set without the boxcar sold for $18.50 - that's easily the equivalent of $250 today - and came with no transformer. There were too many different kinds of power across the country to include a transformer that would work for everyone, in those days, and many homes had no electricity at all. My late Uncle Jim Sutter had the passenger version of this set as a kid, and ran it from a car battery. The acid ate a hole through Grandma's rug and into the floor and we heard the story of it every Christmas ever after.
Here's a larger Lionel set from the same period. The #50 locomotive shown pulling #35, #35, #36 cars was only made in 1923 and '24 - a medium sized Early-Period engine, one of two to feature the new, improved "Super Motor," which was to power Lionel's golden "Classic Period" beginning one year later and continuing to about 1937. This picture gives a good idea how BIG this gauge of trains was, and it's by no means the largest model.
"A Keen Christmas - 1920:" The Christmas tree of Mrs. A.M.Keen, ca. 1920. Washington, D.C.- Harris & Ewing glass negative.
We have Howard Lamey to thank for spotting this one among the Shorpy.com photo archives. A remarkable display! The trains, telegraph poles and lamp posts are German. It appears to be a small Bing or Karl Bubb 0 gauge set of charming European style. Of particular interest is the lower track down on the floor. Enclosed within another charming Dent cast-iron fence, this type of two-rail track with wooden ties is characteristic of the very earliest kind of electric trains. Setting them up was not for kids!You got a box of pre-cut ties with slits in them and flexible strips of steel rail which you had to push down into the slits. Lionel's earliest trains -between 1902 and about 1908 used this kind of track 2 7/8" wide. This track is narrower at 2", and marked an advance in that it came sectional, as I have just been informed, and that is definitely not a Lionel engine on it. I have never seen that little steeple-cab engine. I guessed Bing or Bubb or even Maerklin, but I just don't know. All the train stuff is pre WW I. In those early times, several manufacurers made running models of the strange little mining trains - now extremely rare - that hauled coal out of the ground, and so a mine is what we have here - complete with croquet players? Is that real dirt on the floor? It's not unheard of in early putzing ....
We have a marvelous blow-up of this one ...
This putz could be from earlier than the Twenties. There is nothing in it except the minature light bulbs that could not go back to 1900, but even those bulbs are of very early types - doubtless carbon filaments with the exhaust tips exposed on top.
We have a catalogue page identifying that mysterious, strange locomotive going in and out of those tunnels on the floor.
It's by an all-but-forgotten American train maker - name of "Howard Electric Trains"
In business from only 1904 to 1910, HOWARD was the first to have operating electric headlights on toy electric train engines. Their trains were quite high-quality and sturdy for the times. Each piece came in a dovetailed, slide-top wooden box. The track was sectional, but of a doomed 2" gauge. Talk about rare! Train collector Dave McEntarfer who sent this and several other vintage pictures tells me that just 3 are still known to exist. It ran on 4 big dry cell batteries or 3 2-volt wet cells. It isn't possible to tell which year this page is from because HOWARD had the exact same catalog for all 6 of its years.
Rob Shoeberlein has done it again. To follow are three more vintage Christmas displays whose train contents date them surely between 1924 and the Early '30s... the Lionel "Classic Period." They are three different displays appearing to be from three different houses.
This is the stuff that train collectors dreams are made of. We have a big Lionel #402 or #402E (remote control reverse) standard gauge twin-motor locomotive pulling it's matched set of passenger cars #419,#418,and #490 - the size of big picnic bread loaves and with little swivel parlor seats inside. Flagship Set #403 or 403E in the 1924 through 1926 catalogs and continued throughout the decade.
These trains are of the Lionel "Classic Period," also, but there is no standard gauge here. They have two #251 or 251E boxcab electric sets...one passenger and one freight. This engine and the passenger cars are rather hard to find, having been only made for a few years in the late '20s and are rather large for the 0 gauge track. The layout is packed with Lionel tin villas and bungalos and some other houses that appear to be made of wood. Note that extremely elaborate train control console on the right! It is comprised of lionel knife-switches and rheostats and etc, but this is a custom job and seems to be massive overkill for running just two trains. I'd bet the farm this set was in the home of an electrical engineer...
I like this one-train dogbone layout with it's three trees! It has charm. The train is headed by a Lionel #10 or #10E engine, Lionel's second smallest Classic Period standard gauge engine , the #8 being the smallest. That set usually has three cars... combine, pullman and observation. I only see two, here. We see a Lionel metal bungalo on the left - probably a #184 - and the widely found Lionel #122, not #124 station on the right. The difference was that the #124 had external light fixtures in addition to a light inside. Otherwise, both were identical and of standard gauge size and sold for decades. And we see a couple of automatic signals and some other things. And again we have a very strange control box on the left - if in fact that's what it was. It could be a box to contain batteries and speed controls - if the house had no electric There seem to be no lights on the trees. But then - it may have nothing to do with the train at all. To tell you the truth - I have no idea what that thing is. Another proudly home-made contraption? Radio? A quack medical machine? But I suspect it worked the train.
A Christmas in Toledo - 1924
Not much Christmas showing, but this picture is dated Dec. 1921, Washington DC - a house built in 1876. Can you imagine the interior of such a place, of having Christmas in it?
Better yet -
The negative is damaged, but I just had to include it.
A Christmas 1920 - Washington, D.C. - Blowup showing exquisite detail.
CHRISTMAS VISITS to pre 1920
CHRISTMASES of the 1930s
CHRISTMASES of WW II
TABLE of CONTENTS CATEGORIES 1930's WW II POSTWAR MAIN PAGE