No battery-run toys or touch screens under this Christmas tree... only marvelous animal replicas with real fur and hair, heads that nod, a cow that moos and a horse that prances as the cart he pulls is pushed along.
This is the world of those with the means to buy a fine toy for a couple dollars, in American homes of the 1870's to the turn of the Century. This is the world within reach of the highly trained glass workers at the Dorflinger plant in White Mills. On Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, and the Saturday during Hawley's Winterfest, curator Kurt Reed will exhibit and explain both the toys of this period and the way a Christmas tree would have been decorated, at the restored 1867 Dorflinger Worker's Cottage.
On display at the cottage is a live tree adorned with ornaments made in the German tradition, largely out of paper or cardboard, with cotton backing. Rather than a star, on top the tree is a very rare paper basket of roses, the rose being a Biblical comparison to Jesus Christ. Large figures of St. Nicholas done in paper hang on the branches, as well as a military badges, a snowman and other symbols of the season. Garland of cranberries and popcorn wrap around the evergreen.
Kept safely in a box for display are rare examples of glass animal ornaments made by lamp workers in Germany.
Reed explains that the restored cottage on Charles Street, one of several surviving in White Mills ordered by cut glass manufacturer Christian Dorflinger for his artisans, was built for Nicholas Lutz. Born in Germany, Lutz specialized in creating the flower designs that were incorporated in glass paperweights and stoppers used on fine crystal bottles crafted by his fellow workers.
As a highly trained artisan, Lutz would have earned between $45 and $60 a week working for Dorflinger, and could have afforded the fine toys, Reed said. Glass blowers were mid-level and earned $4 a day. The average laborer of the day may have earned 50 cents a week.
Lutz was brought over from Germany by Dorflinger but he only stayed in White Mills from 1867 to 1870. He then went on to become the head gaffer (glass blower) at the renowned Boston Sandwich Glass Works in Sandwich, MA.
Most of the toys on display move by a simple tap. The realistic cow, on a base with wheels, even moos when the head moves. "Anything that moved on its won the children loved," Reed says. Figures of St. Nicholas were sold posing on a donkey, or even a reindeer or polar bear. The animal heads would bob and the whole figure would pull on a string.
The cow toy is surfaced with real hide, covering molded paper mache, and has glass eyes. In 1800 the cow toy sold for a dollar.
Page 2 of 2 - A large horse toy, made in Germany, is felt covered with stick legs on a wheeled wood platform. Real horse hair makes up the mane and tail.
The public is welcome to the open house at the Dorflinger Workers Cottage museum, Friday, Saturday, Nov. 29-30, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days, and on Saturday, Dec. 7 from 12 to 3 p.m. There is no charge. "This is our Christmas present to the community," Reed said.
Tours will be given of the cottage, which is furnished as it would likely appear circa 1870. Each of these cottages have uniquely sloped roofs.
Also on Dec. 7 between 12 and 3 p.m., the public is welcome to tour the newly opened Dorflinger Factory Museum at the bottom of the hill off Route 6. Parking for both the Factory Museum and Worker's Cottage is available behind the factory, accessed from Charles Street. The Worker's Cottage is just up the hill on the left from where Charles Street intersects with Church and Ash streets.
The Dorflinger Glass Museum and Gift Shop, on top the hill (go up Elizabeth Street from Route 6), will be open Saturday, Nov. 30, from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 1, from 1 to 4 p.m. with no admission charge.