Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Reposting: Vintage Gurley Thanksgiving Candles

Here's a "reprint" of a previous Thanksgiving-themed blog post I wrote about a vintage Thanksgiving tradition: Candles in the shape of Pilgrims and turkeys.

Gurley Thanksgiving Candles

I don't know why I bought these Thanksgiving novelty candles at an estate sale over the summer.  I remember they were only a few cents apiece.  Perhaps it was because I remember spending part of my allowance on one of these candles -- the little Pilgrim girl -- at our local Ben Franklin store when I was a kid.  I seem to recall she cost a dime.  I kept her for years.

These little candles are somewhat the worse for wear, for having been stored probably for decades. The tips of the boy's shoes, and the head of one of the turkeys, are missing (or perhaps they were bitten off by some youngster or small animal). 

But -- like so many of their fellows -- no one ever used them as candles.  They were meant to be decorative.

This afternoon, I went online and I looked up the name of the company that made these little candles. I must say, I've never before associated the words "cute" and "decorative" with a major international oil company.   Here's the story:

A man named Franklin Gurley started a company called W & F Manufacturing Company in Buffalo, NY in 1927.  W&F made candies, chocolates and wax novelties.  In 1939, Mr. Gurley was approached by the Socony-Vacuum Oil Company ("Socony" stood for Standard Oil Company of New York -- it was a predecessor of the company we now call ExxonMobil) looking for a way to use up the extra paraffin created during the oil refining process.  

So, Gurley started making small decorative candles under the name Tavern Novelty Candles.  In 1949, the company was renamed Gurley Novelty Company and it operated until the 1970s.  It was primarily known for making decorative candles like the Pilgrim girl and boy and their fowl friends.  Gurley also made Christmas, Easter and Halloween-themed little candles.

You can find the vintage versions of the candles at online auction sites -- and the venerable Vermont Country Store bought the Gurley molds a few years ago and is reissuing them.  Among others, they sell the Pilgrims and the Turkey, tall Turkey Tapers, cute Christmas Carolers, and Santa Tapers, as sets.

The Gurley Novelty Company's little candles have made it into the Buffalo Historical Society's archives.  Here's a link to their newsletter with an article on the history of Gurley:

You can go on Pinterest and see photographs of many of the candles produced by Tavern and Gurley.  It seems as though most people thought they were too cute to light:

Here's a link to the Vermont Country Store website:

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