Saturday, October 24, 2020

Mr. Bill & the Beistle cat

Mr. Bill, who has a long association with Halloween here at Papergreat HQ, takes a break from monitoring the wildlife1 in order to check out this vintage, embossed Beistle black cat decoration, which measures about 6 inches wide by 7 inches tall. I bought it last year at The Dark Parlour, a fantastically creepy curiosity shop in York, Pennsylvania. (Like many small businesses, it has taken a foot-traffic hit during this pandemic, so check out its online store if you're so inclined.)

The decoration might date to the 1930s, according to The Dark Parlour. Pennsylvania-based Beistle is still around and has a long history of selling decorations, paper products and more. It was started around 1900 by Martin Luther "M.L." Beistle, according to the company website:
"Always looking for opportunity that involved decorative products made from paper, M.L. made a trip to Heidelberg Germany and while there, he observed a honeycombing technique and being a visionary entrepreneur, skillfully conceived and designed a process to honeycomb tissue paper, and with the addition of these new decorative products, The Beistle Company was formed."
The company started in Pittsburgh but is now located in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. It declares itself to be "the oldest continuing manufacturer of decorations and party goods in the United States."

It has a separate website,, for the sale of its classic holiday offerings from the past century (or more). The Halloween offerings include a reproduction "Scratch Cat" similar to the one standing next to Mr. Bill. It's larger and more elaborate, with movable joints and brass fasteners. 

1. The tiny picnic table is for the chipmunks, though the squirrels and blue jays also grab peanuts from it. At night, it turns into a dinner table for the semi-resident raccoon. The yellowish gourds further in the background are set out as "sacrifices" for the raccoon, which likes to chew a half-dollar-sized hole in them and pull out the innards for a snack. 
2. This month, the lead items promoted on Beistle's main website are face shields for COVID-19.

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