Our 2011 Mid-Century Christmas Tree

Our tree has been up for a while, but I finally got around to taking a photo. Our mid-century ornaments look pretty good with our new mid-century tree topper.

In other end-of-the-year news: I'm taking a break from blogging over the holidays so I can relax and spend time with family and friends. Your daily dose of mid-century commentary will be back in the new year. I will be making some updates and improvements over the intermission, and there's pretty good chance I'll break things. So if things start looking odd or not working, it should hopefully be fixed before the next time I post.

Thanks for reading this year and have a wonderful New Year.

Mid-Century Home Improvement, 2011

With the end of the year quickly approaching, I'm starting to wrap up this year's home improvement goals and think about plans for next year. I've updated our to-do list and I think next year is going to be the year of outdoor. I'm planning on focusing on the front porch and front and back yard, and maybe the carport area if I'm feeling extra ambitious.

Looking back a old improvements, there are a few small ones that made a big difference. Our electric bill has dropped by 20% since we've moved in, in part because of the solar screens we added and some insulation efforts we made. And our water bill is down 10% from fixing leaky plumbing and fixtures.

I think the biggest visual improvement of the year was painting the master bedroom closet. It's something I see every day, and every day I'm thankful I don't see bright green. Although the new ceiling fan is really nice too.

Frank Lloyd Wright Paint Colors

Speaking of mid-century paint colors, the Guggenheim announced that they've partnered with Fine Paints of Europe to release their own paint collection, including paint colors originally chosen by Frank Lloyd Wright when he designed the Guggenheim.

From the press release:
For more than fifty years the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York has selected the perfect wall colors to complement the celebrated collection of modern art showcased in its Frank Lloyd Wright–designed home on Fifth Avenue.

Beginning this fall, the Guggenheim will share these trade secrets with homeowners, interior designers, architects, and art lovers everywhere. The Classical Colors is a set of 150 wall colors drawn from much-loved paintings in the Guggenheim’s permanent collection. The Gallery Colors are comprised of 50 hues favored by generations of Guggenheim Museum curators, artists, and designers—including Wright himself.
If you're interested in having Frank Lloyd Wright paint colors in your home, you can order a fan book of colors for Fine Paints of Europe (which is a bit expensive) or find a local retailer.

Authentic Mid-Century Interior Paint Colors

I'm always trying to add to my list of authentic mid-century homes paint colors, and I just happened upon a few more swatches from the 1950s.

These DuPont mid-century colors are a lot more toned down than the O'Brien mid-century colors, so those might work better if you're looking for a mid-century modern paint scheme. But these feel a little more like authentic mid-century colors to me, but maybe that's because my mid-century ranch's walls are pretty close to the light gray on that first swatch.

US Patents as Mid-Century Artwork

I saw this in a store window here in Austin, but apparently Heather at Brady Bunch Remodel had the same idea (or saw the same store window). US patent drawings make a great, cheap piece of artwork for any mid-century home.

Normally I'd send you straight to the source to download your own images, but the US Patent and Trademark Office site is a bit of a nightmare, especially if you're on a mac, so I'd suggest Google's patent search, which lets you download printer-friendly pdfs.

I've been wondering what art I was going to put on the wall next to our breakfast table, and I think I just found it.

Prints for a Travel-Theme Nursery

Anyone setting up a travel-themed nursery should know about JHill Design. They have prints of landmarks, cities, states and countries that you can customize with personal information. They also have some pretty darn cute animal and family tree prints.

Travel-Themed Nursery with a Custom Mural

Project Nursery has some snaps of an Around the World nursery. I love the paint colors and how some world landmarks are worked in.

World Map Wall Decal for a Travel Nursery

Yesterday I mentioned some transportation wall decals that would be great for a travel-themed nursery if you didn't want to put up a big map on the wall.

However, I've had a few people ask, "Where did you buy your world map decal?"

Well, we painted (with the aid of a digital projector) so that the map would be big enough to fill the wall. But there are some nice world map wall decals out there. If you search Amazon or Etsy for "map wall decal" you're bound to turn up multiple sizes and colors of globe wall decals like these:

And if you're looking for something that's a little more Paula Scher like, this world wall sticker might be more to your liking:

Wall Decals for a Travel Nursery

If you don't want to paint a giant map in your travel-themed nursery, you might want to check out these transportation wall decals, which would work great in any travel nursery. I particularly like the planes and the modern train engine.

Mid-Century Christmas Tree Topper

I've already searched and found our mid-century tree topper, but there is a new contender this year from ModCloth and it may have made me think twice if I found it last year.
It's pretty similar to our starburst tree topper and I think either would look great on top of any tree.

Mid-Century Modern Christmas Decorations

Some major stores are diving into mid-century modern Christmas decorations head first.

CB2 has a holiday collection that includes this mid-century ranch snow globe:

And this mid-century modern doll house, with what looks like a miniature Malm fireplace:
And it's much more affordable than the last mid-century dollhouse I mentioned.

While West Elm is carrying these modern nut crackers, elves and Santas:

And these double globe ornaments that would look great on any silver christmas tree:

Happy holidays!

2013 update: If you're looking for the double globe ornaments, CB2 has similar modern glass ball ornaments for sale.

Visual Aid Number 26

Visual Aid 26 - There's no place like home
There's one additional poster that I felt should be included in my series on the Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides, Visual Aid number 26. It's commonly mistaken for Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 26, which is understandable because the Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 26 is pretty hard to track down and both poster series are made by the T.G. Nichols Company. With the amazing illustration and cute little lesson attached, I can see why it's mistaken.

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 36

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 36 - Cooperate
It's been a long run, but this is the last in the Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides series. And what better way to end than a bird in glasses?

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 35

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 35 - I have a little tooth brush
The poster reads in full:
I have a little tooth brush,
I use it every day,
To keep my teeth all clean and white
And save them from decay.

I have a soap and flannel,
I use them, you can tell;
My mother says that cleanliness
Will help to keep me well.
Another original, unsigned poem from the Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides.

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 34

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 34 - Honor thy father and thy mother
1930s schools were definitely different than today. Some of these posters wouldn't be able to be hung now; this one, probably the Easter and Santa ones and the couple that have depictions of nakedness on them. I can only imagine the graffiti that would invite these days.

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 33

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 33 - Use baskets
It took me a little to figure it out, because I've never trash cans referred to as baskets, but I think this is a "don't litter" lesson.

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 32

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 32 - Crusade against dirt
Another cleanliness message, though this one is the most heroic of the lot.

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 31

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 31 - Keep your city clean
I think this is my favorite poster in the entire series. I love the colors, the outfits and the random banana.

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 30

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 30 - Protect the birds
Again, a bit of an odd message. But the graphic is amazing.

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 29

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 29 - Easter
I love the typography on some of these posters. There's a mix of art nouveau, mid-century cleanliness and hand-drawn uniqueness.

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 28

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 28 - Bathe for clean-ness
Bathing a keeping clean seems to be a big motif with these posters.

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 27

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 27 - Smile
This is one of the two Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides that I own, and definitely one of the creepiest of the whole line.

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 26

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 26 - Keep hat and shoes clean
Besides #12 (which I'm still not sure I've see the real one of), #26 seems to be the hardest Character-Culture-Citizenship poster to track down. I'm not sure why they used a winter hat for a March poster.

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 25

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 25 - Nature says wash
The individual boxes read: Rain washes the fruit, Birds like to bathe, Dog washing puppies, Pussy washes her paws, Bathing's fun!

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 24

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 24 - "I have grown grey, and now find myself going blind"
This seems like an odd Washington quote to use for a poster. First off, it's a misquote. The actual quote is, "Gentleman, you must pardon me. I have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind." Secondly, out of context, it doesn't really have any meaning.

So let me add some context. From the Library of Congress:
March 13, Washington addresses mutinous Continental officers at Newburgh, New York. Their pay long in arrears, the officers fear that their pensions will also be unpaid. In December 1782, representative officers from each state's Continental line had sent a petition to Congress insisting on immediate payment and suggesting the substitution of lump sums for pensions. The officers, most of whom are at the army's headquarters at Newburgh, learn that Congress has rejected the petition. Washington calls a meeting of representative officers and staff and delivers a speech and reads an extract from Congress. Referring to the glasses he must wear to read the extract, he says, "Gentleman, you must pardon me. I have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind." Washington's gesture defuses the crisis. After he retires from the scene the officers adopt resolutions affirming their loyalty to Congress. March 18, Washington writes Congress an account of the proceedings of the previous days and argues on behalf of the officers' grievances.

Essentially, Washington quelled a mutiny over payment and pensions by showing his humility, loyalty and years of service to ones country. I'm guessing the lesson plan for this poster was about humility, or possibly service and loyalty. Either way, it's a long road to get there from this quote.

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 23

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 23 - The stairway of life begins at the door of our home
The stairway to life contains the steps of: hard work, honesty, perseverance, loyalty, idealism, sympathy and love.

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 22

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 22 - Tell the truth
There's a Peter Rabbit feel to this poster, but the thick black frame and rabbit eyebrows make it feel a little sinister to me.

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 21

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 21 - Which is manly?
I'm going to say the guy on the right is the manly one, because most of the time, I look more like him than the guy on the left.

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 20

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 20 - Put away your toys
This one seems less about character, culture or citizenship and more about keeping your room clean. I'm sure the parents appreciated this one though.

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 19

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 19 - Every link of equal strength
The links read: reverence, honesty, loyalty and friendship.

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 18

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 18 - Play outdoors
When my mom gave me the Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides that started this whole obsession, she kept one for herself, #18. And I can see why.

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 17

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 17 - Bank tomorrow
Once again, the Character-Culture-Citizenship poster itself only tells half the story. My guess is the lesson plan for this poster was something along the lines of, "Go to the bank tomorrow and start saving." However the poster by itself has more of a procrastination feel, "Put your money in the bank? It can wait till tomorrow."

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 16

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 16 - December
Like Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 6, this Character-Culture-Citizenship poster has a space for a calendar on the bottom. But unlike #6, it has specific instructions telling the teachers the space is for a calendar.

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 15

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 15 - White clouds...
The full text reads:
White clouds, white clouds, up so high
White clouds, white clouds, in the sky
Clouds so white and sky so blue:
How I love to look at you.

Soapsuds, soapsuds, in my hair
Soapsuds, soapsuds, white and fair:
Tell me mother, tell me true,
Are the clouds just soapsuds too?
I can't find a reference to the poem anywhere else but this poster, and since the poster is unsigned, the poem is too.

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 14

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 14 - Safety first
I'll be honest, I don't really understand this particular Character-Culture-Citizenship poster. Is the mouse supposed to be cautious while getting the cheese? Or are people supposed to be safe and set out lots of traps?

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 13

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 13 - This or this or this?

And, Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 13 - Read good books

#13 is the only Character-Culture-Citizenship Guide that I've seen two versions of. The early version with the hats has a copyright of 1932 and that's the only copyright date I've seen on this version. The second poster with the teddy bear I've seen with a range of dated copyrights and no copyright.

Back when I wrote about the Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides copyright, I mentioned that the posters without copyright dates on them were probably made in the 1940s, after the dated versions. If the non-copyrighted versions were printed before the copyrighted versions, they would probably have the "This or this or this" poster in the set, but since the "Read good books" version has the later copyright and a version with no copyright, the non-copyrighted versions probably came after the dated version.

The other interesting thing is that the same number poster has two different months. So, depending on the year they were printed, the poster months and numbers might be off by one. Which makes sense since the school year and school breaks probably shifted the dates/lesson plans around each year.

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 12 (maybe)

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 12 - We thank thee
This is the only poster I can find that's referred to as the Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides number 12, and I've seen it called that multiple times, but I'm not convinced. It has "Visual Aid" in the spot where the Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides title usually is, which makes me think this is number 12 in a different classroom series by the T.G. Nichols Co.

But the only way to prove my hunch is to find a different Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides #12, which I haven't been able to do yet.

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 11

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 11 - "Peace on earth, good will to men."
The stepping stones from boyhood to manhood read: play, respect of parents, ambition, thoroughness, determination, friendship, reverence and self respect.

I'm guessing here, but the man does bear a resemblance to FDR, who was President when the Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides were printed, so perhaps this is also the road to the presidency.

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 10

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 10 - Friendliness.
I love this Character-Culture-Citizenship Guide, the colors and the coats are outstanding, but there are a few things I noticed: 1) How do you lose a shoe in a river? 2) These people are trapped on a rock during a rain storm, they have bigger problems than a lost shoe.

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 9

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 9 - Give.
This is one of the two Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides that started the whole obsession.

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 8

This almost worked out perfectly, but it's a little early. Still, here's the Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 8 - A sane Halloween.

Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides Number 7

Here's the Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides 7 - Keep well.
The copyright on the Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides posters is interesting.

Most people say the copyright is 1936, I think because that the year that was quoted for the posters on the Antiques Roadshow. But there are actually multiple copyright dates on the Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides, from 1932 to 1939 - and maybe even into the '40s.

The copyright can be seen pretty easily on most posters, right under the "Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides" title. I've seen 1932, 1936, 1937, 1938 and 1939. It's not out of the question that the posters were printed every year since they were teaching tools, but the above years are the only ones I've actually seen.

There are also Character-Culture-Citizenship Guides without a copyright date on them. I believe these were printed after the dated versions (for reasons I'll go into when we get to number 13), so into the '40s. I've heard that they were printed till 1943, but without dates on the posters to verify, it's hard to say for sure.