Enduring Tchotchkes of Yesteryear It’s a sign of the 21st century – go to any conference, on any subject – and you come home loaded up with tchotchkes; canvas bags, key chains, calendars, and in one memorable instance, a rubber brain.
News-Antique.com - Jun 13,2008 - Advertisers are always looking for a way to get that logo in front of you, preferably on something you’ll use every day or at least see sitting on your desk.
Well, it’s not only the 21st century that lays on the clutter. As far back as you can go, promotional items have been, well, promoted. Thanks to the Rosetta Stone, we can now see that the hieroglyphics on the wall read “Eat at Joe’s”.
In the late 1800’s, the latest promotional gimmick was the glass paperweight. William H. Maxwell, of Pittsburgh, Pa., patented a process in 1882 for making paperweights with the advertisement of a business or product by reproducing it on a milk-glass disk and encasing it within clear glass. About ten years later, fellow Pittsburgh businessman Albert A. Graeser developed a process for sealing an image to the underside of a glass ‘blank’ using either milk glass or an enamel-like glaze. (thanks to Wikipedia for the information)
Quickly, this novel way to get your business name on everyone’s desk became popular and today there are many enduring samples of intriguing advertisements, for everything from boots to ship-rigging equipment. You might ask, why a paperweight? Were papers flying about so very much? Actually, yes, they were. In the 1880’s, the file cabinet as we know it had not yet been invented. Papers were kept in long-term storage by folding them in thirds and inserting them in cardboard envelopes which were tied shut and stored in a pigeon-hole system (hence, the term ‘pigeon-holed’, when you want to refer to something or someone who has been categorized and then forgotten!). Papers that you wanted at hand were kept on a spindle or stacked on your desk or in a letter tray. A paperweight would be necessary to keep them from flying out every time anyone walked by. (thanks to the Early Office Museum for this info)
So yes, those paperweights actually had an important function. In any case, you have to admit, a heavy glass paperweight isn’t going to be tossed into the wastebasket as quickly as a cheap plastic keychain or drink cozy (or even a rubber brain, no matter how attractive).
For a sample of advertising and commemorative paperweights, visit Art Glass & Collectibles shop at http://www.tias.com/stores/agcs.