Monday, December 2, 2019

A Breyer for Christmas, 1960s Style

Breyer model horses are on many collectors' wish lists this holiday season (or any other season, really).  

It's fun to look back to see how Breyers were marketed in the 1960s.  Here are some examples of newspaper ads that collectors would have marked and shown to their parents, or tucked into that letter to Santa.  Looking at the old ads, we can see the variety of businesses that sold Breyers.

Toy store: Jackson, Mississippi Clarion-Ledger, November 20, 1966.

Local pharmacy: Helena, Montana Independent-Record, December 22, 1966.

Farm and garden store: Chicago Daily Herald, December 3, 1970. (Not the best photo of the Breyer Clydesdale Mare....)

Same chain, different store: Tinley Park, IL Star, December 16, 1970. A relatively clear photo of the Breyer "Adios" is shown.

Hagen-Renaker History by the Numbers, October 1951

Early Hagen-Renaker foal, designed by Helen Perrin.
This unfinished example was fished out of a dumpster
at one of the Hagen-Renaker facilities in Monrovia
by a local girl on her way home from school. 

This post is one in a series intended to give more context for collectors about the production of Hagen-Renaker horse and other animal figurines. 

This time, we look at the Monrovia Daily News-Post from October 16, 1951. The newspaper reported on the incredible number of figurines the company was producing in its early years.

Two and a half million pieces produced in 1951, with increased production planned!

Arcadia Ceramics and Walker-Renaker were associated companies. 50,000 "Holy Cow" figurines went to market in 1951. 

Below, we see that Walker Potteries was considered the "parent" company of Hagen-Renaker.

Sometimes newspapers make mistakes. :)
"Mrs. Perring" is designer Helen Perrin. 

The extended family of businesses and company employees were increasing Monrovia's industrial might in the post-World War II era.

And they were sourcing some of the clay used for the figurines from other areas including Tennessee, so that the "endless stream of tiny figures" could go out "over the world to cheer children and grownups here and everywhere."


Author Nancy Kelly's volumes on Hagen-Renaker from Schiffer Books are great resources.  You can find them on Amazon, AbeBooks, eBay and other sources.

Hagen-Renaker Pottery (1999)
More Hagen-Renaker Pottery (2000)
Hagen-Renaker Through the Years (2001)

To connect with other people who are passionate about Hagen-Renaker, here's a link to the Hagen-Renaker Collectors Club website:  

For more general information, there's a Hagen-Renaker group on Facebook:

And you can see many examples of the company's work at Ed and Sheri Alcorn's website:

December 1958: Family Business, Community Pride: Hagen-Renaker's New Facility

Hagen-Renaker "Ferseyn" Arabian stallion.
Following up on yesterday's post about Hagen-Renaker, Inc. and the "Mystery Donkey" (link below), here's another Monrovia Daily News-Post story about H-R, this time from December 31, 1958.

This was a "banner" period for Hagen-Renaker horse production. Maureen Love's designs for the B-679 American Saddlebred "Honora," Arabians B-658 "Sherif," B-698 "Sheba," and B-697 "Ferseyn," the Quarter Horse "Maverick" and many others were part of the H-R lineup. Older designs were being retired; newer ones were being added.

Hagen-Renaker "Maverick" Quarter Horse stallion.

I think it's important to collect this information and share them where collectors inside and outside the organized model horse hobby can easily find them.  This is previously published information, but not everyone is able to spend the time and resources to look it up.

So here's the scoop in Monrovia, in December 1958. In 1957, Hagen-Renaker had taken the huge step of establishing a large facility on Shamrock Street in Monrovia, consolidating its operations under one roof.

More members of the family were now involved in its operations.

Hagen-Renakers were sold in South Africa, Canada, Venezuela, Guatemala, Hawaii, and Alaska (which wouldn't become US states until 1959).

"Simulated Arizona signed [style?] wall decorations for contemporary homes" with designs carried out in enamel were planned for 1959.  I've never heard the term "Arizona" applied to the wall plaques before! (Southwestern style design was popular during the late 1950s.)

Hagen-Renaker wall plaque with two horses.

Back to the article, which mentions many employee names:

Reading about Hagen-Renaker company history gives us better context for the model horses and other animal figurines we enjoy.  And articles like this one help us better understand the special connection between the community, the company, the family, and the employees.

The Monrovia Daily News-Post had run a short article on the new H-R facility on December 31, 1957:


Here's the link to the previous article, about the company in December 1953, and the mysterious donkey:

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Hagen-Renaker History and a Donkey Mystery: Around Christmas, 1953

The Monrovia, California News-Post did a good job of documenting the history of Hagen-Renaker, Inc. in real time. 

This article appeared at the end of one very busy season for H-R -- in the December 31, 1953 edition of the newspaper.  It chronicled the company's work, along with its affiliated pottery Walker-Renaker.  Interestingly, the newspaper article describes Designers' Workshop as an affiliated business that produced larger animal figurines.  The "Renaker plants" employed almost 100 people (including many women) and had a payroll of $600,000.  

Here's the entire article:

This is The Actual Duck, the first piece ever designed by Maxine Renaker. It is part of the Hagen-Renaker history exhibit at the W. K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library at Cal Poly Pomona. The exhibit closes in December 2019. 

The story quotes John Renaker as saying Hagen-Renaker
had attempted to open a branch in Costa Mesa, California,
in Orange County, about 45 to 50 miles from Monrovia.
It didn't work out.

The article refers to Maureen Love as "Maurice."  (Oops.) 
But the paper got her name right in an important photo caption.
Keep reading!

The photos add more to the story, and help us put faces to the names of some of the company's employees.

Hugh Paris, kiln loader, and various animal figurines. How many different ones can you count? (H-R historians, remember, this photo was published in December 1953.)  

The company  "family" atmosphere is captured in these holiday photos of employees at Walker Potteries. I think perhaps Mr. and Mrs. Walker are on the right, rather than the left as the caption indicates.  

Top photo: Teamwork in the DW plant, with supervisors Lucia Payne, Anne Baker, Margaret Ware, Vesta Crail, William Nicely, and Dorothy Pulin, with designer Nell Bortells in the center.  Bottom photo: Christmas dinner at Walker Potteries.

And now for a serious plot twist: The December 31, 1953 newspaper article was also accompanied by this photo of H-R designers Tom Masterson, Maureen Love, and Helen Perrin (later Farnlund) with some of Maureen's equine art.  Maureen, in the center, is working on what looks like a prototype for the Designers' Workshop B-641 "Donkey Mama," better known by her sticker name "Adelaide."

Not a great copy of the photo, but in it you can see "a donkey," the caption says.   

But look again!

This is a well-known photograph among Hagen-Renaker collectors.  The picture is on the H-R company website. An 8x10" print of the image became part of the Hagen-Renaker history exhibit at the Kellogg Arabian Horse Library.  And author Nancy Kelly used the picture on the cover of her book More Hagen-Renaker Pottery.  She forwarded me a copy:

That's not "a" donkey in the photo.  It's two different donkeys!

What was going on here?  We know that H-R made two Designers' Workshop donkeys, the B-641 jenny "Adelaide" and her B-643 foal "Harry," which were first issued in Fall 1956. 

Here's "Donkey Mama" (better known by her sticker name "Adelaide), with her hat.  

Examples of the B-641 Hagen-Renaker "Donkey Mama" "Adelaide"
from Ed and Sheri Alcorn's Hagen-Renaker Online Museum.

Her foal, "Baby Donkey" (his sticker names him "Harry") was also issued in Fall 1956.

Examples of the B-643 "Harry," also from the Hagen-Renaker Online Museum.  

So who is the donkey on the far right of the photo? It isn't "Adelaide" or "Harry."

"Adelaide" and "Harry" are each standing on all four tiny hooves. This Mystery Donkey is standing with its right hind leg cocked, head turned slightly to the left, ears pointing in different directions. 

Knowing now that the photo was published in December 1953, I turned to the venerable Hagen-Renaker Mold Book, the one-of-a-kind handwritten ledger kept at the H-R factory, listing every mold the company produced.  Hobbyist Gayle Roller painstakingly photographed every page of it several years ago, and Nancy Kelly archived it on her website (link below).

The Mold Book shows that, sometime in 1954 (the entry straddles the line between January and July 1954, the Spring and Fall releases), a "Donkey" with mold number 578 was created for the Designers' Workshop line.

So I think it's possible, perhaps even likely, that this is what the B-578 Donkey looked like.

But it was never put into production.

We'd need more information before we could say for sure that this is the Mystery Donkey B-578. The Monrovia News-Post article, at the very least, provides us with a year for the iconic photo of the three Hagen-Renaker designers, and demonstrates that the origins of "Adelaide" the donkey jenny go back to at least 1953. That makes these donkeys some of Maureen Love's earliest equine designs for Hagen-Renaker, and might help us narrow down which real donkeys posed for Maureen's flat art studies that inspired her 3D designs for Hagen-Renaker.  

And the hometown newspaper story gives us more insight into Hagen-Renaker history and the "family" atmosphere at the company during the holiday season, all those years ago.


Many thanks to Nancy Kelly for assistance in crafting this blog post. Her copy of the 85-page Hagen-Renaker Mold Book can be found here:

Here's a link to the Hagen-Renaker Online Museum website:

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Hagen-Renakers Around the World, 1958

Looking through images from old newspapers online this morning, I came across this news feature story. It shows one way that Hagen-Renaker figurines were promoted during the 1950s. 

The story, and accompanying photo, came from the 23 May 1958 Monrovia, California News-Post -- the local paper. The article described how the League of Women Voters was promoting Monrovia businesses that were helping to expand world trade at the time.  

Note that Josef Originals is also mentioned, along with Avery Labels.  "These companies export products to Europe, South Africa, Australia, Canada and Mexico," the article says.

If you worry about your clinky model horse figurines breaking, take a deep breath before looking at this picture of The Hat.

With apologies to Dr. Seuss and PBS Kids, I can only conclude that The Horse in the Hat Knew a Lot About Travel!

Nearly Lost Equine Images, Part 2: Because Ponies and Cats and Children Matter

One of the reasons I created this blog was to record the importance of model horses, and real horses, in the lives of children and adults during the twentieth century.  This is the second in a series of posts about real horse photos that turned up in some old albums from the 1920s through 1950s. Had the pictures not been rescued, the images of these horses might have been lost forever.

The old photograph albums my friend rescued from an estate sale in Southern California a few months ago, contained many pictures of children and ponies.  Some of the pictures had names written on the backs; these did not, as far as I know.  

Judging from the way the children are dressed, it was a chilly day in Minnesota or South Dakota, where the family farm was located in the 1920s-1930s.  

The pony helped keep the family cats warm.  And vice versa.

I think the pony's eyes are closed!  (Is this bliss? Or a prayer that the cats don't start to fall off and use their claws to hang on?)

(Many thanks to Melanie Teller for letting me scan these equine/feline images for posterity. The photo album has now been given to a local history museum for safekeeping!)