Thursday, January 13, 2022

The Hagen-Renaker Horse / Tournament of Roses Parade Connection

Hagen-Renaker "King Cortez" rearing stallion,
from the company's Monrovia era (late 1950s)

I think most people probably enjoy watching (or seeing in person!) the annual Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year's Day because of the flower-covered floats.

But horse lovers watch the parade because of the equestrian units, of course. What model horse collectors might not know is that at least four of the real horses that inspired Maureen Love's equine designs for Hagen-Renaker, Inc., were regular Rose Parade participants, back in their day.

Old horse magazines and newspaper articles show us their images.

The huge palomino American Saddlebreds King Cortez and his sons, Golden Son Cortez and Golden Don Cortez, appeared in many Rose Parades.  

This photo from Western Horseman magazine, January 1962, shows the Cortez boys in their elaborate (and very heavy) silver-mounted tack.

King Cortez was said to have been quite tall, 17.1 or 17.2 hands high.

The silver-mounted tack of the "Cortez Boys," as some model horse collectors call them, was not always that elaborate. Here's an early photo of King Cortez, showing less ornate tack and a shorter mane.

It was not uncommon to see dozens of Palomino horses in the Tournament of Roses Parade during the 1950s and early 1960s.  I bought this slide of King Cortez on eBay not long ago. I'm pleased to be able to share it here, since the image came from a private collection and the seller had no idea who the horse and rider were.  In other words, we hadn't known this photo of him existed before now. 

But I recognized King Cortez and Ernest Specht immediately. The "Cortez" horses may have been recognizable by their long manes and tails and those extraordinary silver saddles, but there was one other way to tell if you were looking at King Cortez. 

Do you see it?  

He's wearing his silver name tag, which is mentioned in a paragraph about him in a book about Palomino horses from the post-World War II era. 

The Hagen-Renaker ceramic figurines King Cortez:

Photo courtesy of the online Hagen-Renaker Museum (link below).

Sun Cortez:

Photo courtesy of the online Hagen-Renaker Museum (link below).

and Don Cortez:

Photo courtesy of the online Hagen-Renaker Museum (link below).

...were first issued in Fall 1957, as Mustangs.

The chestnut Morgan stallion Lippitt Morman appeared in the Tournament of Roses parade as well. Lippitt's owner, Merle Little, and his family were regular Rose Parade participants, from the early 1930s through the 1940s. (Before he bought Lippitt Morman in 1948, newspaper accounts show us that the Littles rode black and white pinto horses in the parade.)

A photo in The Morgan Horse magazine from December 1948 shows the whole Little family on their Morgans, as they got ready for the 1949 Tournament of Roses parade.  Lippitt Morman is the horse on the far right.

And here are some examples of the Hagen-Renaker "Lippet" Morgan stallion:

Photo courtesy of the online Hagen-Renaker Museum (link below).


Dawn Sinkovich's blog, Share the Love, provides us with more information on, and photos of, Lippitt Morman and Maureen Love's sketches of him.

Kristina Lucas Francis' blog, Muddy Hoofprints, gives us more information on the Cortez horses:

You can see examples of more Hagen-Renaker horses here, at Ed Alcorn's amazing Hagen-Renaker Online Museum:

And if you enjoy collecting Hagen-Renaker figurines of all kinds, membership in the Hagen-Renaker Collectors Club is an affordable way to learn more about the history of the company and its figurines, past and present.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Hagen-Renaker History: Duck Duck Gone

Understanding the histories of the companies that make model horses and other animal figurines can give us valuable insight into the times and places they were first produced.  

The other day, I came across a tiny piece of Hagen-Renaker history that I had never seen before. It was in an article in the Monrovia News-Post, dated September 29, 1947.

The weather was nice that week; highs in the low to mid 70s, overnight lows in the low 60s, with a few night and morning low clouds and fog (as are often seen in Los Angeles County).  The Hagen-Renaker company was just getting started, and -- for whatever reason -- Maxine Renaker had set 700 unfinished duck figurines in her front yard. 

The article read:

Clay Ducks Stolen

    Mrs. John Renaker of 1018 S. Myrtle Ave. reported to police yesterday the theft of 700 unfinished clay ducks from the front lawn of her home.  

That was the entire story.

This news begs at least two questions. One: Which Hagen-Renaker ducks? They could have been the Model No. A-8 and A-9 miniature ducks. We know from the company's hand-written Mold Book that a Baby Duck (about 1 1/4" tall) and a Mama Duck (about 2" tall) were among the first little animals produced by Hagen-Renaker. These were only issued in 1948-1949. 

Detail from the Hagen-Renaker Mold Book
showing the Duck Baby and Duck Mama.

Two A-8 Duck Babies and their
A-9 Duck Mama, issued 1948-1949.

The mass-produced ducks are more rounded, less streamlined than the piece collectors sometimes call "THE Duck" -- the one-of-a-kind first small ceramic animal Maxine herself had first designed.

Maxine Renaker's original ceramic duck figurine,
on display a few years ago at the W. K. Kellogg Arabian
Horse Library at Cal Poly Pomona
in the "Miniature Menageries" exhibit.

The second, and more perplexing, question: How did someone have time to steal 





from the Renakers' front yard, without being seen?  Perhaps the little figurines had been set on a flat surface like a piece of plywood and it had been stolen as well?  

Neighborhood kids used to raid the trash bins at the various Hagen-Renaker production locations around town, taking home a discarded figurine or two. I know this from interviewing several people who were children in Monrovia during the late 1940s. Hagen-Renaker was truly a family business, and back then Monrovia was the kind of small town where everyone seemed to know everyone else.

But who would steal seven hundred little duck figurines?  We'll probably never know who took them, how they managed to carry so many small figurines away at once, or what happened to them. The newspaper did not publish a follow-up article.

An article in the November 11, 1947 edition of the Monrovia News-Post says Hagen-Renaker was established in May 1946.

An advertisement in the same issue set forth the company's goals.

The company's earliest animal figurines were a comical Gingham Dog and Calico Cat issued from around 1946 to 1949.  Other early H-R pieces included dishes, trays, and shadow boxes.  Here are two of the early plates, from my collection.

By September 1947, the company was selling factory seconds from its location on one of Monrovia's main streets, Myrtle Avenue.

Reportedly, the early dishware was not really all that popular with consumers. But once the company showed its earliest Miniature animals at trade shows, the business took off. And Hagen-Renaker, a family-owned Southern California business, continued to produce animal figurines right up until the close of 2021. That's quite a legacy, and countless numbers of collectors around the world are grateful for having their lives made better by Hagen-Renaker's management and employees, and by the figurines themselves. 

(This story also reminds me to keep an eye on yard sale and estate sale ads in the Monrovia area advertising small ceramic animals. Just in case the 700 ducks ever turn up!)

Here's another picture of the examples in my collection of the A-8 Duck Baby  (Style One) and A-9 Duck Mama (Style One) when they were on display in the "Miniature Menageries" exhibit on Hagen-Renaker, Inc. at the W. K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library a few years ago.

Many thanks to collector and H-R expert Claudia Segger for thinking through the Case of the Missing Ducks news story with me. 

Hagen-Renaker, Inc. has ceased production in California; today, Hagen-Renaker Tennessee provides members of the Hagen-Renaker Collectors Club with high-quality, licensed reissues of Hagen-Renaker figurines from the original molds. Here's a link to the Club's website:

Author Nancy Kelly's books about Hagen-Renaker, Inc. are great sources of information about the company's history. She also archived the Mold Book on her website: