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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Ornaments of a House: 1915

Ornaments of a House: 1915

Circa 1915. "Hallway with liquor cabinet and living room decorated with mistletoe ball and Christmas gnome by fireplace." Detroit Publishing Co. View full size.

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Corps Transrhenania zu München (Munich)

Transrhenania sei's Panier!
Nunquam retrorsum.

Corps Transrhenania is a German Studentenverbindung in Munich, founded in 1866. Its Latin slogan "Nunquam retrorsum" means "never backward."

Studentenverbindungen are an important part of German history, especially of the history of universities and students. Thank you for this great blog, i am following it no since more than two years.

Greetings from Germany,

Maybe just a regular gnome.

Give all of the other Germanic touches, maybe the gnome is a year round decoration similar to modern day garden gnomes.

On the other hand, if the figure was called a Christmas Gnome in a contemporary label then perhaps there it was recognizable to period eyes as being of the Yuletide season.

A Real Doll House?

Could this photo and the one above it of the nursery actually be interior shots of a very elaborate doll house? Both photos have such an unreal sense about them. I know the objects and things are exremely detailed but it could be a doll house that is rather larger in scale.

[No. - Dave]

Cordial words

That "Forbidden Fruit" decanter looks remarkably like today's Chambord bottle. A quick google search describes it as an American made citrus brandy, no longer in production. It's interesting that "wall words" or carefully stenciled or painted words or sayings are enjoying somewhat of a resurgence in today's interior design.

[The words (individual letters, actually) are casting shadows -- glued or pasted on. - Dave]

War club

That is not a peace pipe, it is a ceremonial war club. I think whoever decorated this house was brilliant.

Shed Some Light, Please

Those are certainly odd shaped lampshades on that brass chandelier! They look like paper "cabbages!" What ARE they made of? How would any light shine through?

A closer look

At least two of the pieces on the shelf in the nook are from Munich -- the stein with the HB logo is from the Hofbräuhaus brewery and beer hall, and the one to the right shows the Münchner Kindl (Munich child), the city's traditional emblem. Neither one is much changed in the knick-knack trade of today.

Ein Stein

One of the beer steins is obviously from a German Studentenverbindung.

(The upper right part is "sei's Panier". "Panier" means "banner" and "sei's Panier" is an expression of loyalty).

[The bottom part looks Latin. - Dave]

One Treasure

Not all of the steins on the shelf above the liquor cabinet are German - or steins for that matter. I noticed one rather nice porcelain tumbler (?) with the portraits of Kinge Edward VII and his wife Queen Alexandra. Perhaps dating to their coronation in 1902. He died in 1910 and in 1915 his son, George V, would have been King.


The whole "quotes on the wall" thing is so trendy right now. I never would have thought that was something being done in 1915!

Christmas Time

The beer glasses and steins along the top shelf on the right look German. Things brought over from their family or part of their European travels? Hmm...

And perhaps it isn't about how simple Christmas is but how you celebrate it. If you don't put your heart in it, it becomes shallow and meaningless, whether you make home decorations or buy an entire holiday catalog. That is why I love the Christmas Markets in Germany... Yes it is about selling/buying stuff too but the feeling you get out of it is pure joy and love. People come out just to drink a glass of Gluehwein and talk with friends. You feel the Christmas spirit.

At some time, during the violent thunderstorm

The gnome had been waiting so long for his revenge. Every Christmas season, year after year, the humans who thought this magnificent home was theirs seemed to delight in ridiculing his mishapened body, his huge head, even the frozen smile he was forced to wear. For eleven months he found comfort and a kind of gnomish warmth in the storage trunk up in the attic but then, with no warning, he'd be dragged downstairs and put on display right here on this hard, drafty floor where all the human people could laugh at him.

Little Gertrude especially went out of her way to add misery to his small world, giving out with a kick of a fancy patent leather shoe every time she walked by. It wasn't so much the rude kick as it was the mocking grin on that rich mug of hers, looking down at him with those blue eyes that reflected the opulence around her. She knew he was helpless to stop her.

But she was wrong, oh, ever so wrong.

The storm's intensity grew. Each flash of lightning was followed almost instantly by a thundering explosion. The big house seemed to tremble. The gnome got to his feet, and stood there while neglected bones and organs and blood found their form and brought his body fully awake. He lifted his big head and, still struggling to overcome the stiff muscles in his neck, raised his eyes up to all of the swords high above the mantel, waiting for him and the gnome friends he was about to unleash from behind the mantelpiece.

From upstairs, between the violent noises outside, the gnome could hear the humans' faint snores and sleeptime murmurs, snug in their silken gowns and warm, fluffy beds. Young Gertrude's room with all of those innocent dolls held prisoner by their selfish mistress was the closest, right at the top of the fancy staircase.

The gnome opened the secret tiny door hidden behind the mantelpiece. The gnome's many friends from throughout the wealthy neighborhood began to crawl into the room, each of them eyeing the deadly weapon they were about to seize. The gnome was smiling, but this time it was an evil smile full of expectation for the horror that was about to begin.

As he led his tiny platoon to the stairs, the gnome reached way up with the gleaming sword he had chosen and slashed the canvas of the girl's portrait in half.


I believe the quotation on the wall is based on a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson "The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it." The quote is all over the Internet, but I can't lay my hands on the source right now.

The original quote can apparently be found over the fireplace in Samuel Clemens' house in Hartford, so perhaps these folk were fans of Mark Twain, rather than Emerson, or maybe the quote was popular at the time. Do any of you know which it is?

Forbidden Fruit

The Folks always had a bottle of it in their liquor cabinet in Larkspur. It seemed to last for years, so I guess it was only taken out for rare, important occasions.

-tterrace's Sister

Single Guy's Dream Smoking Room

This today would be a great "man cave" or more eloquently a gentleman's den. Obviously this room is filled with travel memorabilia that I must say that I would be proud to have my living room decorated the same. The steins really caught my attention because I have a couple with the same town crests and Brau HB is still brewed.

Thanks for the very fun photo!

Interesting mix of decorative styles.

The Chinese-style paper lamp covers, the row of German beer steins atop the cabinets, the Native American decorations on the mantle and the wall, and the medieval fireplace decorations. Lots of different stylistic elements. Given that it's clear whomever owned this house was pretty well to do, I wonder if all these things are a sign they traveled frequently, or just had eclectic taste.


This just might be a display. Note the steel post supporting a light beam to the left of the liquor cabinet. That's not terribly 'normal'. And that's a very small parlor for all the decorative bits and pieces.

Functional Eclectic

I love the variety in the room, from Asian to European, and gauche to classic, as well as the decanter on the liquor cabinet labeled Forbidden Fruit. However, the accoutrements of war above the fireplace were a necessity, as, though not well-known, Zombie uprisings were a great threat even in 1915.

Wall to Wall Wealth

This is clearly a home of some wealth. Wall to wall carpet was quite a luxury in 1915. Common folks were left with area rugs on wooden floors. Amazing how times have changed ... I would take my 1920s oak floors any day over wall to wall.

Dept store display?

The iron staircase and motto above the door make it look like a store showcase more than a private home to me.

The Simple Christmas

held the meaning for me. I remember them and they were good.
As an old man, today, I no longer feel the glow.


Well, the gnome is more than a little creepy (Kill it! Kill it now!), and the swords and shield a tad overwhelming, but I love the Arts and Craftsy touches: the two chairs, the wooden screen, the sideboard. Chinoiserie lamp shades right in keeping, too.

The Definition of "Bric-a-Brac"

If an earthquake hits, it becomes "Bric-a-Broke"

Gah! Honey? Call the exterminator!

If I were to find Christmas gnomes leering around my fireplace, I'd keep an Indian head-buster on the mantel, too.

Crack! pipe.

The Indian war piece on the mantel looks like it's made of pipestone. A soft stone from an area in SW Minnesota. As the name implies, it was mostly used to make peace pipes. Not so this piece. Looks like it could put a big knob on your head. And the strands of hair? They look kinda blonde. Just sayin.


We aren't in the cheap seats, are we?

City gas

I like the old gas logs in the fireplace.

[They look brand new to me! - Dave]

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