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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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A Keen Christmas: 1920

A Keen Christmas: 1920

Washington, D.C., circa 1920. "Mrs. A.M. Keen. Christmas tree." Somewhere in there: a very tiny kitchen sink. Harris & Ewing glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Can't you just smell the Ozone!

That steeple cab locomotive running on the lower level is a rare one. Made by the Howard Miniature Lamp Co. of NYC c. 1908. These ran on 2 inch wide track. Just wonder how many other Howard trains are derailed in the tunnel!

Citizen Keen

I think William Randolph Hearst played with this as a boy. How else could he have come up with the idea of San Simeon?

A.M. Keen

With a name like that you'd better be a morning person.

Krampus is Oh. So. German.

Okay, I don't usually go in for German-bashing since my great-grandmother emigrated from Hanover, but I laughed out loud at the comment about Krampus. (And the link, with its Colbert clip, was hilarious. Next year, I think we'll have to live it up on Krampustag!)

Greco-Roman Gardens and The Dog

Of course no authentic period diorama would be complete with nude statutes in the Greco-Roman garden!

And, is that a lonely dog waiting for someone to open the gate at the top of the stairs to the right?

Wonder what happened to all the props from this elaborate diorama. Which thrift store got all these treasures?

I feel so bad

...that the good Mrs. Keen must have put HOURS and HOURS into this labor of love, and all I can drool over are those gorgeous doors and baseboards.

I was waiting

For some one like kjottbein to notice the gate. There is also the little tram car (that doesn't seem to be to scale) that could have brought them thru the tunnel from the upper level.

It's fun to look at these old Christmas Gardens and dream.

Declasse Decor

Nice to see that people with bad taste were putting up absurd Christmas decorations 90 years ago. I can just imagine Mrs. Keen showing off this display to her friends, beaming with pride, only to have them poke horrible fun at it behind her back.

Politically Incorrect, but...

We need this Krampus guy today. Too many spoiled and bad boys and girls.

Time stood still

"Son, Santa can stop time so that he is able to set up this display." My dad would say, if I asked the big question.

The Hook...and Rear Access

It looks like the tree is attached to a hook in the ceiling for stability. I wonder if that was a permanent fixture that they used every year?

When that Steeple Cab Electric Locomotive jumps off of the track when it is under the tree (inside the tunnel) how do they retrieve it? It look like there might be access from the rear that is visible in the tunnel that the upper train is exiting. Even so it would be a low clearance to get to the lower set of tracks from behind.

Re: Busy, busy, busy

«How did those girls get to the croquet field?»

There is a gate in the fence. They would have to cross the tracks, but who wouldn't risk their lives for an exciting game of croquet?

Just wondering

Where do they put the presents?

Bobble Heads

It looks to me that both the giraffe and the dog (mountain lion) on the rocks to the right of the giraffe are bobble heads. The heads are balanced on a hook in the neck of the body. Tap the head and watch them wiggle for awhile.


Lookit all the little lights! They're even buried in the dirt in front of the croquet girls. I bet this looked gorgeous at night.

I'm a little mystified by the critters in front of the log cabin, though. Is that a tiny giraffe??

Look Up, Way Up!

The one thing missing from this image is a friendly giant wearing boots. Bob Homme would have envied this train and homestead scene around the tree. A cow jumping over the moon would not have been out of place with this tree and neither would a castle next door.

Pointy Ornaments

A true artistic talent need not be bound by convention.

As seen by

This seems to be Henri Rousseau's model train layout.


The fellow with the horns is Krampus, Santa's evil counterpart.

In old-school German folklore, Krampus filled out St. Nick's mythic entourage to play bad cop to Santa's good. For those on the naughty list, Krampus got downright medieval. Traditionally depicted with huge horns, a black mane, talon-like claws (Krampus comes from the Old German for "claw"), and wielding chains and a birch rod, Santa's enforcer beat, whipped and shamed bad children. Sometimes, Krampus went so far as to shove his victims into a sack and throw them into a river. He seemed also to have a particular penchant for birching young, pretty virgins. More here.

Tree toppers

It's very weird to see the long pointy ornaments that today are saved for the top of the tree, sticking out from various branches.


This is the first time I have seen a Christmas ornament depicting the devil. Very odd.

And Overall

A grand chandelier!

"Merry Christmas From the Family"

Robert Earl Keen's ancestors, perhaps.

WOW! Elaborate Train Set

With a Charlie Brown tree.

Full speed ahead

I like the model train layout. Someone put a lot of effort into building it. Seems like there are two different kinds of train sets in use. The top one looks like Lionel since the track has three rails but the bottom one is two rail track for something else, with that neat model of a steeple cab electric locomotive (interesting that someone chose to build a model of one of those in the 1920s).

For years, I wanted to lay out a loop of track around my family's Christmas tree and run my model train on it but my parents shot me down every time. I'm doing it for the first time this year since I'm in my own place now.

Busy, busy, busy

Much to see and too much to really enjoy but my questions are: how did those girls get to the croquet field, and what's in the boxes inside the glass case?

[Piano rolls, as noted below. - Dave]

Noah's Ark

The ark with all the animals escaping is really cute and the details on the miniature house is great. Wonder if one person made this or if it was a group effort.

Too bad

there are no photos of the previous year's setup. Mrs. Kean recreated the 1919 signing of the Treaty of Versailles in the Hall of Mirrors!

19th century iTunes

For those youngsters out there, the case at the far right is filled with piano rolls. Used to have a player piano in our basement when I was a kid, and hundreds of old rolls just like the ones inside the case.

SHORPY HISTORICAL 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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