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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Better Watch Out: 1921

Better Watch Out: 1921

"Secretary Davis, Christmas tree, 1921." James J. Davis, Secretary of Labor in the Harding, Coolidge and Hoover administrations, moonlighting as Santa Claus. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.

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Lionel, I believe

Lionel standardized the electric trains they're still selling with minor modifications around 1906, so I'm guessing that is a Lionel. The Pullman car is a Gauge 1 that preceded O gauge, but was wiped out in the depression. No Gauge 1 tracks are visible as far as I can tell.

They were expensive; my dad got a Lionel train that cost about $200 around 1950, and it was either that or carpet in the living room. Grandma and Grandpa did not see eye to eye on that decision.


Charlie Brown called from 1965. He wants his Christmas tree back.

What kind of tree IS this

So many comments about this tree, but it does not look like a real tree. it's not any pine or spruce or fir that i recognize.

Any botanists out there care to ID this tree?

[Scraggly blue spruce (Picea pungens Charlie Brownius), I would opine. - Dave]

Pre-Martha Stewart

From the days when Christmas trees didn't have to be perfectly symmetrical and Martha Stewart approved. Maybe it was last year's tree.

Merry Farkmas

Whose Train

The electric train is for the grown-ups. Everyone knows that!

Sole Train

The Pullman car and the tender look to be well played with. There are dents on the end of the Pullman at the boy's right as well as worn paint on it and the tender. As to the soles of the boy's shoes, that's stitching, not nails.

Our Trees

In my family we have always waited until Christmas Eve to set up the tree, though at least it wasn't done stealthily. And presents from Santa were never wrapped.

Another thing about the tree is that in 1921 most Christmas trees were not the carefully sheared farm-grown specimens of today.

Trains Don't Run On Time

Looks like the Secretary of Commerce is responsible for disrupting train movements on this line - his foot appears to have pulled the track far enough back that it pulled apart at the switch. Knocked down one of the signals too. Godzilla would be proud but the Interstate Commerce Commission would have questions.

There's not just a giant Pullman in this shot, but behind the boy there's a tender and the locomotive to go with it seems to be behind the secretary's child dandling leg.

Amazing Array of Glass Baubles

I have a large number of ornaments from my grandparents' collection, and peering at the pretty things on this tree, I see several that are exactly what my grandparents have.

It's amazing what bits of family history survived upteen Navy moves and the one time Grandmother lost almost everything when the train transporting everything caught fire.

I don't care how misshapen the tree is, or the garlands being haphazard, I think it's a charming tree!

Tree Critics

I know from my parents' storty-telling that in the early part of the 20th century most families did not bring in and decorate their trees until after the kids went to bed on Christmas Eve. Try to imagine setting up a tree in the stand, decorating it with all the trimmings, gathering up the toys hidden all over the house and setting them out under the tree all on the night before Christmas. They had no time to choose a decorator's perfect tree, place everything perfectly and make it look like a showplace. Also (even before everyone went "green") the gifts from Santa were never wrapped, just put out. I think the wonder and amazement in the kids' eyes prove they were quite enchanted with it all, so it must have looked pretty special to them.

More tasteful!

I love the dangly silver bead strings - that's more tasteful than the tinsel gobs of the midcentury trees!

Of course, it's not QUITE enough to distract the eye from Secretary Davis's elaborate combover, but it's a start.

Dollhouse, Army tank, toy car, Indian headdress, tea set: you're all on the bench. Today's game is all about The New Train!

Father Christmas

Wonderful variety of ornaments. But especially sweet is the daughter's little hands holding her father's hand.

Train Tech

Looks like the trains of the 1920's were not far removed from 1950's models. As far as the timely tags, dry cleaning anyone?

Better Not Cry

Even when the tree comes toppling down -- I haven't seen such a lopsided extravaganza since the year our family tree tipped sideways thanks to insufficient rocks supporting the trunk.

The garland is particularly egregious. The Pullman train car makes up for it, though.


But, please Dave, what's on time on the doorpost? And let's hope Junior doesn't short the transformer with the Pullman car.

At least the doll is happy

Everyone else looks a bit overwhelmed. And when was the last time you saw child-sized shoes with nails in the soles?

Davis On Time ....

Interesting batch of "ON TIME" labels hanging from the hinge of the door.
Wonder what they were for, and why collecting them?

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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