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 exactly as Ted left it in October, 2012.
For more information, please scroll to the bottom of the page.

Christmas candolier animation Christmas candolier animation Christmas snowy house scene animation

PUTZES 2005!
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Christmas trees bar graphic
vintage Christmas tree and 
putz display photo
I just love these old Christmas photos! I would judge this to be about 1928-1930. I see just two or three small cardboard houses in the putz, and there are the ubiquitous celluloid animals and some bottle-brush trees.... even a tiny goose-feather tree at the extreme left. The large house is one of the popular slot-and-tab cardboard punch-out toys of the time - American and not neccessarily made for Christmas. The Japanese milk-glass figural lightbulbs, the Noma No. 121 Lighted Tree Top Star - and the presence of Japanese houses at all - make me disinclined to put it earlier than 1928.....
...but then - there are that dress and hairstyle !

It doesn't look like much to us, but you can bet it was Christmas Wonderland to her! Do you remember making those construction-paper lanterns and chains in grade school? The flour-and-water glue? I do! Actually, my Mom taught us those at home before we ever got to school. I wonder if kids are making them today ...
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- and now for Antoinette's -
Annual "Treat of the Season!"

Here's Antoinette Stockenberg's 2005 Christmas card to you. For a closer look,
click on each of the houses! in this nighttime view.
Antique Christmas cardboard house putz (village) on fireplace mantel at 

For a closer look, just click on each of the houses! in Antoinette's daytime view. Antique Christmas cardboard house putz (village) on fireplace mantel in 
the daytime (50K)

For a closer look, just click on each of the houses!
Christmas cardboard Putz with 
German lead flats including Santa at the North Pole(58K)
New this year, Antoinette's Mantel has expanded to a bookshelf addition.

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"Christmas Archaeology!"

Ted: Looks like a pile of rubble, and I hate to think what Tom paid to get all that wood shipped out to Kansas, but it's very cool! What you've got, here, is like finding the nearly complete skeleton of a tyrannosaurus rex! These are the "bones" of a 1930's putz from an estate in Iowa. Those little wood tables and all the other boards are supports to form mountains and landscape under sheets. Those steps. I wonder they led to? - that Nativity, no doubt - as the center piece. Those wooley wooden sheep alone would probably return his price on a another auction. I bet that was quite a putz in it's day. I wonder if Tom can figure out how it all went together? "Christmas Archaeology!"
Christmas village houses putz 
display foundation remnants Christmas village houses putz 
display foundation remnants

Ted: Those steps bring back putz memories of Johnstown as a preschooler. I saw people's putzes with lots of little steps and ladders leading up to different levels. Bridges over steams and between mountains. Very intricate (at least to my young eyes) and you could study them a long time to figure just how the imaginary residents got from here to there.

Tom: I'll just bet that's what this is. Many of the pieces are homemade and the German figures? A real likelihood. I knew you would figure this out for me. I have never seen those type putzes. I wish you had taken pictures - Ha! Tom
Christmas village houses putz 
display foundation remnants Christmas village houses putz display foundation 

Ted: Boy, me too! But that was the early '40s and I was a 5-year old preacher's kid going around with his preacher Dad on his shut-in visitations. I got a lot of cookies and saw a lot of Old German trees and putzes that way. That's where first memories of the spun-wire ornaments came from. And this one old old lady - (I couldn't understand a word.She was "Old Country" and she and Dad spoke only German.) She had the most beautiful table top tree covered in the German ornaments and spun glass "angel-hair" ( remember that stuff?) . The lights were those old C-6 carbon filaments shaped like pine cones. I touched one and it burned my finger instantly, like a solder ing iron! I bawled like hell, but it also burned in a visual memory of that tree and lady that has never left me.
I kept my finger in a snowball all the way home.

Christmas village houses putz 
display foundation remnants
Tom: Well this is all that there is. No idea if I am even close. Notice the carefully homemade elevated ramp made of small tree branches on the left. Must have taken some time as they are all evenly sized and the ramp boards carefully split. The flight into Egypt group is in front of that. In the left foreground is a little rabbit skinned dog pulling a wooden sled (from Japan). On the right of that is the herd of sheep with the ram standing on a bleacher. To the right of that is a Nubian figure and camel. I have seen this figure and his hand originally is up to hold the lead of the camel. There is another critter ramp made of masonite laying there. In the center is the "ox and ass" and a pane of glass. The fence has stickers on them saying "American Made 100 percent". Don't know how the ramps were used but believe the side steps are set up right as they were tapered to fit under the tables. Is this anything like you remember, Ted? Tom hull

Ted: Given what you've got there, I'd say that's probably pretty close! The only thing I'm thinking is: "Where'd they put the tree?' I've got a set of that "100% American Made" fence. You've got three! I first see it about 1938 in a Butler Bros catalog. You can be sure this was added during the war. It's such an ideal size it has fit into every putz I've made since finding it. (See mine in the first "PUTZES" section.)The truly great putzes had many levels!
Sleeping cat on Christmas village houses putz 
display foundation remnants
Tom explains that this is why he cannot have a putz before the big front window.
Probably just as well because direct sunlight -even through glass- can fade these old treasures in no time!

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Carl and Emily Rice

Christmas village houses putz display
Some very fine old pieces, here! A VERY nice collection! Perhaps they will honor us with a few closeups?
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Linda Starek: 2005


Christmas village houses putz display
Linda's putz has mostly FABULOUS pieces! I see several "House(s)of the Month" in it, with January 2006 about center and January 2005 just to the right of it. Of great interest to me, also, is the porched house lower left. I am reminded of the single house that appears under the little feather tree in the last scenes in of the Margaret O'Brien movie "TENTH AVENUE ANGEL"(1948)- but I think there were 5 slots in that dormer.
Linda herself says:"I was so excited when I saw the HOM for January 2006!!!! I had one in my 2005 village. It was handed down from my grandmother and is the only house I have from her. In fact, it still has candle wax drippings on the roof since she did put candles on her trees in the 30's. That house is also the sister to the blue two-story house in the picture I sent you. There is one more green two-story brother that goes with it. I had them together in the village this year. I'm getting the pictures put on CD's so that you can see them together." - L.S.
Christmas village houses putz display Christmas village houses putz display

Left and right views of the overall. A Christmas Universe in a relatively small space.
Christmas village houses putz display
A big panorama! It's clear that Linda is no "coconut snob." While there are lots of super prewar cocos, she also has haciendas, finer postwar - and even a large American made Dolly Toy "printie," proving there are fine things from all eras.

Note, also, the tall skyscraper-like building up on the hill toward the back, just off center. Actually, that is the "HIGH SCHOOL" shown as APRIL 2005 HOUSE of the MONTH. The April '05 HOUSE of the MONTH is missing the center section, as was discovered later. Kathi, it's owner, actually fabricated a flawless center section with it's double entries from scratch - to be seen in the "1930s" SECTION under "CLOCK HOUSES." But i am still not convinced it didn't come both ways. There is absolutely no disruption of the flat coconut roof on the HOUSE of the MONTH version. No glue lines or cardboard strips to fit it over. Karen, perhaps you can tell us if your roof is also plain or has something to hold that mid-section in place?

Christmas village houses putz display
She calls this her "Cathedral," complete with "Padre" and a wedding party. This is one of the larger postwar churches.
Christmas village houses putz display
In this night view of the left side, you can see the semi-giant with it's little car.
Christmas village houses putz display
Close on that single WW II large printie. She's added a clay-face chenille Santa to the chimney, but a little hard to make out. This was her grandmother's,too.
Christmas village houses putz display
"HACIENDA AVENUE," as Linda calls it - complete with skating party.
Christmas village houses putz display
Night skating on "HACIENDA AVENUE."
Linda says:"This was the first time I put, what I call the big houses, in my collection together in a village. It was fun to put up and sad to take down, but you can't take the magic out of it!!!!!!!!!!!"

No, you can't, and thank you so much, Linda, for sharing your marvelous putz with all of us!

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Donna Collins: 1941

Donna sent me these precious black and white prints - tiny little scallope-edged things from 1941 - that she says were taken by relatives of hers in Scranton, PA. While it's an enormous hassle to deal with paper prints, you know how I LOVE old photos and these were exceptional ( from the year of my birth ) - and so I wheedled my savy good friend, Mike,who knows how - into bringing these to size and life.
Vintage Christmas Lionel trains layout photo
Vintage Christmas Lionel trains layout photo
These shots seem to be about the center of the scene,stepping deeper - showing a liberal use of the gypsum/plaster "COMPO" houses on a prewar train layout and lots of fanciful figures, pathways - all kinds of little "microcosmic" inner scenes, each with story a kid could tell you about...for HOURS!"
Vintage Christmas Lionel trains layout photo
Closer on the inner steets from another angle ...Lot's of "activity." More stories. A lionel #184 Bungalo on the right and a Lionel #191 Villa behind the plaster "Store." I wonder what these little figures are. They're half the height of the Barclays I remember, and the Lionel Train Figures were bigger, too.
Vintage Christmas Lionel trains layout photo
Here's the "mountain" tunnel with farmstead atop. It's made of brown paper grocery store bags all crumped up and accented with paint - the same way an American Flyer collector friend of mine still makes his mountains to this day.
Vintage Christmas Lionel trains layout photo
Here's a down-front lower-left closeup on the Lionel #137 Station with liberal use of Lionel and Barclay figures.

Having seen only about 3/4's of the track layout, as an old train guy I was still able to extrapolate one of the most ingenious, self-running track plans I have ever seen from these old snapshots. I never seen anything like it in any of the old Lionel catalogs and publications of "suggested track plans" anywhere.
The old "High-Rail" 0-31 track and type 0-22 switches, with their "non-derailing" feature,which when connected by wires to other switches - actually form logic cells comparable to those in modern computers. The train would have taken three different routes over the layout before repeating - with no human intervention. And it will work in either direction. Amazing!

If you like maze-puzzles - get your pencil and trace this out....

Vintage Christmas Lionel trains layout amazing 
automatic track plan drawing
Postulate two paired sets of switches. Each pair operates together to set and reset each other always to the same position at the same time. "A" with "B" and "C" with "D". The two pairs are independent of each other.


The train coming through 45 deg. crossing "X1" toward "Switch A" triggers "Switch A" to the curved position "1." "Switch A" is wired to "Switch B" so that "Switch B" simultaneously switches to the "1" position (curved.) When the train comes out of the tunnel and reaches "SWITCH B," it turns down the central track toward "Switch C." When it reaches "Switch C," the switch is thrown to the "3" position (straight). "Switch C" is wired to "Switch D." which simultaneously throws to the "3" position ( straight.) Meantime, the train is passing over "Switch C," over "X1" and down around the left lower front toward "Switch A" and the tunnel again. Reaching "A," the switch throws to the "2" position (straight" and throws switch "B" to position 2 (straight also.) So the train goes through the tunnel and comes to "Switch B" again, but this time goes straight and into "Switch D," which was previously set to the "3"(straight)position by "Switch C,"and continues straight at "Switch D." It rounds the outer curve and passes back into the interior over 90 deg crossing "X2." It reaches "Switch C" again, and it throws it to "4" (curved) position and simultaneously throws "Switch D" to the "#4" position (curved.)The train comes down over "X1" again, and down around the front track to "Switch A" again. Already set to "2" (straight), "Switch A" sends the train into the tunnel and no change is made at "Switch B." It goes straight through at "B," and into "Switch D" again, which was previously to the "4" position by "Switch C." Now it turns at "D" and goes down through "X2"into the lower curve, and left into our ORIGINAL STARTING POINT! - crossing "X1" heading toward "Switch A" and the tunnel. ... and the whole thing starts over! 3 different routes over 1 track plan with no human intervention! (Except train wrecks which you will always have when you use switches.)

Picture the train - running counter-clockwise into switch A. If switch A is set straight, the train will continue down and around front and up thru through X1 and into switch C. If C is straight it will proceed into switch B. Switch B will act as master and set switch A to turn. The train now turns at switch A and goes thru the other leg of X1 and up into X2 and into switch D. Switch D acts as master and sets switch C to turn. The train goes on through switch B which sets switch A to straight. The train goes through switch A straight, comes down around again and through X1 into switch C - but this time switch C has been set to turn out so that the train now passes through the other leg of X2 and out around the coal elevator and into switch D again. Switch D now sets switch C to straight again. The train goes on thru switch B straight. Switch A is already straight and does not get reset. We are back at the beginning cycle again, and all track has been run.
Without a doubt, this is the most amazing logical monkey-puzzle track plan I've ever seen. Two cooperative wired switch pairs make for three diferent routes.... either direction. Theoretically, if another pair of switches could be worked in - you could multiply that number before repeating, but so far I can't even visualize a third pair. It's like the Fifth Dimension. I'm on my way to the ibuprofen bottle as it is ....
Vintage Christmas Lionel trains 
I had not received this last picture at the time I formulated the above drawing. It came later, showing the "northeast" corner of the layout, so I was "educated-guessing" about the "Switch D" - "X2" configuration. There exists no snapshot view of the "southeast" corner. But from the what I could see, what I have filled in would be logical. I was right about Switch "D", but I used a 90 deg. crossover where they had a switch below the coal elevator. Actually, this makes my automatic theory of the layout work. I'm not totally sure, now, that the "Miller Boys" actually had theirs working this way. Without that missing view, we'll never know for sure, but they certainly did manage to reach down over 60 years and spark another mind!

Those Miller boys of Scranton really knew their stuff! Donna says they did displays and even store windows all over Scranton before the war. The name of one of the boys was Clarence Miller who later married "Ruth." Donna never saw these pictures until she inherited them after the Scranton Flood,but says she does remember they had a big living room.(And obviously tolerant parents!)
I will be having more pictures of another layout that they did in website this soon. And thank you, Clarence and Ruth Miller and Donna!

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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.)

Note: This archive was set up at Ted's request in early 2012, and, except for critical updates and
announcements, will remain exactly as Ted left it in October, 2012.
The archive is kept online with the help of volunteers from:

Visit the FamilyChristmasOnline site for Christmas music, stories, craft resources and much more.
Visit the OldChristmasTreeLights site for the history of Christmas tree lighting, including Bubble Lights and more.
Visit our collection of resources for collecting, restoring, and making your own cardboard Christmas houses.
Visit Howard Lamey's glitterhouse gallery, with free project plans, graphics, and instructions.
Check out  a very active, quality craft and collectibles blog (with local news of Croton NY).
Resources for making seasonal villages and model railroads for O, S, and On30 model railroading