Note: This is an archive of "Papa" Ted Althof's online tribute to cardboard Christmas "putz" houses and their history. At Ted's request, this archive was established in early 2012. Except for critical updates and announcements, it will remain as Ted left it in October, 2012.
For more information, please scroll to the bottom of the page.

Christmas holly bar graphic

Inventors of the mail-order catalog and the 5 & 10.
New York
860 Broadway at 17th Street
(They also had stores in Chicago and Baltimore)


We owe a HUGE debt of gratitude to Craig Schenning of Schenning Antiques who very generously provided 5 of the six years shown here. Among other things, Craig collects , reproduces and makes available quite a large selection of old catalogs of "Rosetta Stone" value to collectors of toys, trains, Christmas, dolls, and a hundred other categories.

As I leaf through these multi-hundred page marvels, I am taken back to the commonplace objects of everyday life - 1930's in every category. It's like a Sears or Wards, but all the stuff is sold wholesale and by the dozens,- except for the largest things. This is where the stores bought what they sold to you. Furniture, appliances, tools, utensils, toys, trains,guns, persperation shields (ever hear of those?)..... Everything! And it appears that ordinary folks could buy from them, too. I had never heard of the Butler Brothers prior to these researches, but they must have been a household word up and down the Eastern Seaboard prior to The War.

1930 - 1931

I have a December 1930 Butler Brothers. It has the lights and ornaments and artificial trees, but no cardboard houses. It may be there were some listed in an earlier month, but I don't know. I have not yet seen a 1931 and so don't know about that year,either, but we've struck real "paydirt" in .....


Butler Brothers catalog October 1932
October, 1932:

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"Our Drummer" for FALL & WINTER 1933

"National Distributors of General Merchandise"
"One price to all under like conditions"

This edition of the Butler Bros Catalog contained more than 50 fabulous pages of toys, trains, dolls, and holiday stuff for Halloween and Christmas - stuff to drive a hundred kinds of collectors crazy. Much as I would love to, there is no way I can do the whole thing here, (order from Craig Schenning) so I'll stick to the best reference I've ever found on the larger Christmas houses. Bottom of page 69 ....

Butler Brothers 1933 Christmas decoration full  
Butler Brothers Christmas village houses 
Starting to see anything that looks familiar?
Butler Brothers 1933 catalog Christmas houses 
Large Christmas putz house Butler Bros. 
Note that these are the big ones, and that you got a dozen assorted. No real control over that. Here they only illustrate two. I would LOVE to see the rest of them! And there is nothing indicated to limit the varieties to just 12; there could have been many more than a dozen different types. The store owner got what he got and put them out to sell.

Medium sized Christmas villagehouses Butler 
Hmmmm ... ?
Christmas putz houses Butler Bros. 1933
These are their medium-sized offerings, but still they're full box-based - about what we would consider the "standard" size.

Small Christmas display houses Butler Brothers
And, finally - their tiny sizes with the flatcard base. Note that ALL these prices are for a DOZEN! That's 3 cents apiece on these ...

I can't resist; - I'm going on ....


Christmas trees Butler Brothers 1933
Goose feather Christmas trees Butler 
Brothers 1933 catalog
Until now, I had thought that the feather trees with these square, hollow, white decal bases were POSTwar, and that PREwar "feathers" had turned wooden "tub" bases. But it's obviously not so.. I found many other things that went back much further than I'd thought,
Christmas holly bar graphic

1934 - 1935

I haven't found these years. I surely hope I can. I have a suspicion that 1934 will be just about the peak year, or prove that 1933 was. 1935, I think, is the big debut of the "Haciendas," and that's one we all would like to see.

1935 - Found!!
New for Jan.,2009!
Butler Brothers catalog Christmas page 1935
At least we think it's 1935. Rita Dubas, a designer from Brooklyn and a big Butler Brothers fan, sent me one very fragile page from what she believes to be from a Dec. 1935 catalog. I haven't done the full page because everything else is much the same as the other years - just this close-up on the houses being offered. I'm not sure. Was I right? Is this the debut of the "Haciendas?"? I can see some elements - the jagged outline of the roof paint on one, but these don't really look like "Haciendas" to me.
Note that for the first time we are looking at an actual photograph here. It's at just about this time that all the mail-order catalogs began to replace the old engravings with them.


Butler Brothers catalog 1936

Butler Brother catalog 1937
Butler Brothers November 1937:

By 1936 and 1937 we are seeing all HACIENDAS, which bears up pretty much perfectly with the information gleaned from "THE CHICAGO DATES."


Butler Brothers Fall and Holiday 1938:

Not much difference from 1937, but it is evident the houses are growing smaller and less complicated year-by-year, the selection growing smaller , too. We do note the appearance of those German "Willow" stick fences that turn up so frequently - and the little glass-candled"Glow-Lite" table trees.
Christmas holly bar graphic


I am missing these three years as well. I'm not too concerned with 1939. I don't expect there would be any real news on 1938. I have a '39 Ward's Christmas Wishbook, and there are no houses in it. 1939 seems to be a sinker year for houses. Probably 1940 as well. I would like to check out 1941, however. The catalogs would have been printed and sent out by Dec.7. My main interest in this period is when the transition from Japanese to American ( Dolly Toy Co. and Colmor) took place.
Christmas holly bar graphic


Butler Brothers 1942-43 
Holiday catalog Butler Brothers Holiday 1942-1943:

Making quite a skip to 1942: We are a full year into The War by this time, and everything is now 100% American: - DOLLY TOY CO. and COLMOR.
* WW II *
I really wish I could see what happened in 1931, 1934, 1935 and 1941! If anyone has catalogs of any company with old Christmas houses in them, we all would certainly like to see them!

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Copyright 2000-2012 Theodore H. Althof,Jr.Except where noted, the contents of this website and all it's pages and submissions therein contained are the intellectual property of Theodore H.Althof,Jr. All rights are reserved. (Background musical selections are,of course, excepted.)

This archive was set up at Ted's request in early 2012, and, except for critical updates and
announcements, will remain as Ted left it in October, 2012.
The archive is kept online with the help of volunteers from the following affiliated sites and resources:
- Christmas Memories and Collectibles -
Visit the FamilyChristmasOnline site. Visit our collection of resources for collecting, restoring, and making your own cardboard Christmas houses. Return to the OldChristmasTreeLights Welcome page Visit Howard Lamey's glitterhouse gallery, with free project plans, graphics, and instructions. Visit Papa Ted Althof's extensive history and collection of putz houses, the largest and most complete such resource on the Internet. Craft and collectibles blog with local news of Croton NY.
- Family Activities and Crafts -
Click to see reviews of our favorite family-friendly Christmas movies. Free, Family-Friendly Christmas Stories Decorate your tree the old-fashioned way with these kid-friendly projects. Free plans and instructions for starting a hobby building vintage-style cardboard Christmas houses. Free building projects for your vintage railroad or Christmas village. Click to find free, family-friendly Christmas poems and - in some cases - their stories.
- Trains and Hobbies -
Visit the Internet's largest resource on choosing and displaying Christmas trains. Visit Lionel Trains. Click to see Thomas Kinkaded-inspired Holiday Trains and Villages.
Learn about backyard railroading with Family Garden Trains
Click to see HO scale trains with your favorite team's colors.
Resources for O gauge and On30 model railroading
- Music -
Carols of many countries, including music, lyrics, and the story behind the songs Wax recordings from the early 1900s, mostly collected by George Nelson.  Download them all for a 'period' album.
Best-loved railroad songs and the stories behind them.
Heartland-inspired music, history, and acoustic instrument tips. Own a guitar, banjo, or mandolin?  Want to play an instrument?  Tips to save you money and time, and keep your instrument playable.
The struggles and influences of early Jesus Musicians and others who laid the groundwork for the Christian music and worship that is part of our lives today.