just the right Christmas
gift for that special someone on your list has been an issue for Texans
since the holiday first became commercialized.
The December 1911 issue of a long-forgotten but fun-to-read iconoclastic
monthly called K. Lamity’s Harpoon offered a full-page ad from a Uvalde
taxidermist with some unusual gift items for sale that some modern
readers will probably wish were still available today.
Published in Austin, the
Harpoon’s masthead proclaimed: “Minnows are safe, I am after whales.”
Like most of that era’s practitioners of personal journalism, owner-editor
John S. “K. Lamity” Bonner wrote most of the content, sold and composed
advertising, handled the circulation list and kept the office swept.
Doubtless written by Bonner, the taxidermist’s ad copy began:
“Don’t waste money on useless Christmas
presents. Give your friends or relatives something artistic, as well
Women, he continued, often send their male relatives or friends a
box of cigars “with Johnson grass wrappers and alfalfa fillers.” Such
cigars, he continued, “won’t smoke, and are not even pretty.”
But what about a deer’s foot thermometer?
Yes, long before all the wares offered via toll-free 800 numbers,
from knives that never need sharpening to singing bass, the Muter
and Collier Taxidermy Co. of Uvalde
sold preserved deer’s feet with thermometers attached, suitable for
“Beautifully polished,” Bonner waxed on, the deer-foot temperature
tellers were “an article that is useful as well as an art treasure.”
All cloven-hooved stocking stuffer cost was $1.50 plus a dime for
postage and handling.
Of course, the women folks could not be overlooked.
“Gentlemen, as a rule, send books that have been read [re-gifting
apparently is not a new concept], glassware that breaks, and is lost,
handkerchiefs that won’t blow good, or glucose candy that makes ‘em
sick,” Bonner went on.
So, rather than giving any of those cliché articles, “send them an
art treasure – a beautiful and useful work basket, made from the shell
of an armadillo.”
Highly polished and lined with “dainty silk,” the baskets are “not
only a great curiosity, but valuable and handy, and will last a life-time,
and then some.” In other words, give a gal an armadillo shell and
create a family heirloom.
An armored basket cost $1.50, same as the deer’s foot thermometer,
plus “a trifle extra for express charges.”
Another gift idea ran only $1, a Miller’s Lightning Nut Cracker. Manufactured
by J.H. Miller in Austin,
the nut cracker, according to an ad in the Harpoon, had been “wonderfully
improved.” (Presumably from an earlier model, though that is not explained
in the ad.) Eighty per cent of the time, the sales copy boasted, with
Miller’s Lightning Nut Cracker “nuts come whole from the shell.” On
top of its efficiency, the ad continued, the device was “handsome
enough for parlor, or ladie’s [sic] hat ornament.”
Imagine how stylish a young lady in 1911 would look while strolling
along Congress Avenue with an armadillo basket in her hand and a nut
cracker on her hat.
Courtesy www.rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/
| For young boys,
the Harpoon editor could think of no better gift than a copy of his
self-published book, “The Three Adventurers,” an action-filled novel
of the early days along the Texas frontier.
“Beautifully illustrated,” the 350-page softcover book cost 50 cents,
payable in coin, money order or postage stamps.
Even though the book retailed for only half a dollar, Bonner had one
more offer to sweeten the deal:
“Buy your boy a copy of “The Three Adventurers” for a Christmas
present. Let him read it clear thorough, and then ask him how he liked
the book. If he does not say that it is the best story he ever read,
send the book back to us (uninjured) and we will return you your 50
Alas, advertisers in this issue of the Harpoon offered no specific
recommendations of gifts for girls. Maybe they got armadillo baskets
just like their moms.
December 18, 2008
Christmas in Texas
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