Need a cool gift idea for the holiday season? Clearly, all you need to do is time-travel back to the early 1970s and order yourself a nifty Black Forest Weather House for just $2.99 plus 25¢ shipping.1 Or buy two for $4.99 and get free shipping!
(Aside: If you're looking for actual holiday gift suggestions that don't require a flux capacitor, the off-the-beaten-path ideas I suggested in 2012 still apply.)2
The Black Forest Weather House advertisement is featured in the October 1970 issue of The Workbasket and Home Arts Magazine. Other advertisements in that issue tout the wonders of Midget Sock Toys from Pack-O-Fun3, Magi-Glo Christmas tree ornaments, a Lighted Pineapple Centerpiece4, glitter plaques and half-price accordions.
If you think that $2.99 in 1970 didn't get you a very impressive "hand-made" collectible from "skilled artisans in the Famous Black Forest of GERMANY," I suspect that you are correct. That's the equivalent of about $17.50 in current dollars, which is now probably just enough money to get you some prefabricated assembly-line crap from Wal-Mart that you don't need.
But that didn't stop Foster-Trent5 from detailing all of the "wonders" of the Black Forest Weather House in the tiny advertising copy. (If there are a lot of words, it must be an impressive item, right?) Some of these Workbasket advertisements are really no different from what you'd see in comic books of the 1960s and 1970s. They're just aimed at a different audience.
But at least the advertising copywriters seemed to have some fun with their task. Here are some excerpts from how the described the Weather House:
- "Ever since 1794, generations of gifted craftsmen from the SCHWARZWALD in the mountainous Bavarian area of West German have made these delightful Wetterhauschen."
- "This ancient woodcrafters' art, jealously guarded, had passed on, down through the years, from father to sons and daughters. Each one is fashioned with quality materials featuring rich sepia woods of the Black Forest. The parts are put together by hand — piece by piece — with methodical German precision."
- "In it 'live' grumpy Herr Hans and his flaxen haired daughter, Brunhild."
- "People in scores of countries 'round the world use these quaint Weather Houses to help foretell weather conditions in their own localities."
- "Please don't confuse this large, deluxe wetterhauschen with the cheap, brittle oriental imitations that sell for under two dollars. This is the genuine, original Wetterhauschen! Truly a product of German artistry and skill. Pictured here is the EXTRA LARGE size."
- "You will be delighted at the miniature water pump ... the proverbial toadstool ... the nightingale poised to warble its glorious song ... the Lilliputian flowers and bushes! Everything's so real looking ... so perfectly shaped and meticulously put together by those nimble-fingered Bavarian craftsmen."
If you are now feeling that you must have a Black Forest Weather House for Christmas 2013, you'll be happy to know that you can still get them. They range from about $16 for the HOK Concepts model to $140 for the ISDD Cuckoo Clocks model on Amazon.com.
But I'm not sure if any of the modern creations offer this feature that Foster-Trent highlighted in 1970...
Footnotes and general wonderments
1. Why is the dollar sign before the amount and the cent sign after the amount? Someone other than me has actually wondered this, too.
2. Who does footnotes AND asides? That's just silly.
3. Want to make the Red Heel Sock Monkey that Pack-O-Fun made famous? Here's how.
4. Susan Myers discusses the Lighted Pineapple Centerpiece and much more in this groovy post on Suzy's Artsy-Crafty Sitcom.
5. I previously featured Foster-Trent hawking some dubious items in this May 2013 post.