The McHenry County Historical Society will pull the plug on Jan. 3 on the community's opportunity to view a one-of-a-kind display of working holiday “trade stimulators’ from the 1950s.
Veteran Christmas memorabilia collectors Dave Harms and Lynne Eltrevoog of Marengo have amassed approximately 20 automated props that were designed to lure window shoppers inside stores. In their heyday, they were known as "trade stimulators." Major retailers doubled down on this strategy through their Christmas marketing campaigns. Montgomery Wards embraced Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Carson Pirie Scott had the Cinnamon Bear and Marshall Field adopted Uncle Mistletoe and Aunt Holly. Frosty the Snowman, which is celebrating his 50th birthday this year, promoted merchandise at Sears.
The couple’s repertoire, accumulated predominantly during the last decade, includes a 1951 sleeping Santa, a ballerina bear, an elf assembling a toy and a Santa playing piano. They were manufactured by companies like New York-based David Hamberger Holiday Displays and Gregory Motors, Inc. and Harold Gale Co. of Kansas City, Mo.
“I love lights that blink and I love motion,” Harms said. “We’re hoping that when they’re all moving the whimsy of it will produce a smile.”
Other vintage holiday decorations, many with a Frosty theme, join these mechanized pieces at the Historical Museum, 6422 Main St., Union. Entries in the fourth annual “Rock Around the Quilted Tree” also are on display. These beautiful quilts – many with log cabin or snowman themes, are displayed in tree-like fashion in a type of fabric forest.
Both displays will remain available for viewing through Jan. 3, with the exception of Dec. 24, 25 and 31; as well as New Year’s Day. Hours are 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and on Saturday, Dec. 21. Regular museum admission applies.
For more information call 815 923-2267 or visit GotHistory.org.