Thursday, January 13, 2011

13 January 1957 “A Do It Yourself Coffee Table and Clowns:Once The Darling of The 1950’s”

doityourselftable1 I thought I would share this lovely little ‘Do-it-yourself’ idea from one of my magazines. It is a very clever mid-century modern design for a coffee table, utilizing a door. I think it could also be made more Early American by some clever painting or decoupage techniques. Or, simply paint it a solid color. I think it would be fun to attach some metal office baskets underneath (you could do this easily when it is turned upside down) so you could store magazines and things underneath out of sight, but easy to get to.doityourselftable2
In the 1950’s and earlier, the clown was seen as an endearing character. Usually funny and jovial, though sometimes a sad clown, it represented the fun and excitement of the circus.
Here is a kid’s show featuring a Clown from the early 1950’s:
Clowns played a major role in graphic arts/advertising, children’s books, fabric, wrapping paper, even household items such as lamps and chairs. Even Food was often given these delightful creatures as a theme.clowncupcakesclowncake
batteryclowntoyThese battery operated toys were very popular during the 1950’s. And of course, the clown played a major role here as well.
clowninthebox The fear of clowns must have come after the 1970’s because I recall, as a small child in the late 70’s, having one of these type of Jack in the box with the clown face.
  These Hazel Atlas Milk Glass tumblers and Cookie jars are Kitsch today, but the bright colors exemplify the 1950’s kitchen palete of red/pinks, soft blue/teal, yellow and red. clownmilkglass  They show that the clown was not meant only for children. Many a homemaker would have been proud to have these in her kitchen.clownteaset These, to my modern sensibilities, are a bit more menacing.clownhamburgers Before Ronald, Clowns were still considered good fodder to sell food.1957clownpatternAnd toy clowns abound during this decade. This McCall’s pattern features one as part of this sew your own toy collection. To my old modern sensibilities he almost has a sinister grin, but I think this is due to my modern view of clowns.
craftclownCertainly Clowns played a major role as a ‘go-to character’ in arts and crafts. (This thanks to Kitschy Kitschy Koo)clowngame  And toys such as these would have been happily received and possibly wrapped in papers such as this. clownwrappingpaper
Today, many of us have a very different view of the clown. We often view them as kitsch or sometimes even menacing and evil. That is probably due to the Poltergeist films where a toy clown attacks the family. There is also the horror writer Stephen King to thank for menacing clowns as well. I am not sure why they recieved that eventual position in the collection of frightening creatures. That is of course unless those children of the 1950’s (who King and Spielberg certainly were) had nightmarish moments as children with toys or bedroom furniture.
Though this looks darling to me clownlamp it might have frigtened King or Speilberg late at night, with the long shadows cutting across it. Or perhaps the moonlight hit thisclowndoll just so, and nightmares ensued.
We do know that the Clown was one of the major choices for children’s Halloween costumes, both in the happy varietysimplicityclowncostume clowncostume and the clown’s wayward cousin, the HOBO hobo .
Even the art world was subject to these characters as we see in this 1955 painting by the artist Bernard Buffet. bernardbuffetclowns He was a French Expressionist and was a member of the anti-abstract group "L 'homme Témoin”. I suppose the irreverence of representational art in the form of the clown was their way to counter the growing popularity of Abstraction in the 1950’s.abstraction
Since that time, the clown has made many appearances in art, often with much irony or again with the ability to menace either out of fear or fear of good taste.
Any way you slice it, the clown elicits some response. There is no middle ground for these bright characters. You either coil in fear, raise your nose in disgust of Kitsch, or hold out your arms in a ‘Gimme Gimme’ stance, wanting to take them home with you.
I have a love hate relationship now after living two years in the 1950’s. My once clean cut hatred has become a see saw response of joy and disgust. Again, a response for sure, no hum-drum indifference.
How do clowns make you feel?


  1. I think there always was a tradition of "sad" clowns. Think of Pagliacci. In the 50s and 60s there was Red Skelton and Emmitt Kelley. But they were sympathetic characters; they were very human and touched the heart. Happy and sad were both part of being human. I agree with you that in the 70s the clown became sinister. I wonder if this doesn't stem from a failure to appreciate the sad parts of life with the happy. We can't be happy all the time so the happy clown must really be a deception, so therefore sinister. My theory, for what it's worth.

  2. I always feel sorry for clowns. They look pitiful to me. My son, when he was 2, was terrified of them at his first circus, because the clown "beat" my husband (he came down into the audience) with a foam baseball bat and he was crying. Now he hates them.

  3. Ah...just a quick note. There are no clowns in the Poltergeist movies. Perhaps you have mistaken them for a different horror flick series?

  4. Ah...I can't believe,if you saw Poltergeist, you DON'T remember the clown scene...SO SCARY
    HERE it is if you don't believe me

  5. Love the hi-ball glasses. How cute, clowns or not.

  6. I've never particularly liked clowns or clown-like things, such as porcelain masks or dolls. I think it might be the extreme whiteness of them, almost a death-like quality. I was a kid in the 70s, but I came to my clown dislike at a very early age. So when I got around to reading Stephen King, I understood his inspiration. :)

  7. I have two clown stories, or clown-related stories, I guess!

    1. We were not allowed to have Raggedy Ann/Andy dolls when we were kids, because our two older siblings were tormented by nightmares after receiving them as presents! Crazy, right? It was such a tough time for my parents that they didn't want to chance it with the second set of kids a decade later.

    2. My grandmother owned an art gallery and often gave us framed paintings and prints. One was of a clown, which my mom hung briefly until declaring it "creepy" and getting rid of it.

    I am not a fan of clown decor or dolls, but I'm not frightened of them. I just find them silly/odd/ugly.

  8. Ah, I misunderstood. For me, Poltergeist didn't revolve around the clown scene. I can see how that would be terrifying. I had completely forgotten about it. My apologies.

  9. Know worries, it just goes to show how clowns represent a bit of 'creepy' for me still. I haven't seen that movie in years (besides the fact it technically hasn't been made yet for me) and that scene was the first thing I thought of.

  10. I LOVE this post! Thanks for gathering all of these vintage clowns for us.

    I'm someone who doesn't think that clowns are the least bit scary - but I'm a bit older than you (probably quite a bit) and so I was grown up enough when Poltergeist came out to be able to just laugh off the haunted clown.

    People have a similar type of fear of old 1920s, 30's dolls. I posted my doll collection once, thinking they were absolutely adorable - and everyone was scared away! :-)

  11. oh my! I have always had a fear of clowns! I never realized how important they were. Kinda makes me glad I wasn't around back then!

  12. not a big clown fan here either...although i do like them at parades, walking their imaginary dogs and such.
    funny thing though, my mom made us clown suits one year for halloween, and other than being a princess once, that was my only other costume!! those baggy clown things fit forEVER!!

  13. Clowns are creepy! I don't remember having any kind of opinion of them as a child, I was indifferent. But as an adult (yes, one who has seen Poltergeist!) they creep me out.

    There's currently a TV commercial for the US Postal Service that is playing off the Poltergeist clown, that is hilarious....

  14. I agree with Sasparilla. We must have grown up in the same era. Clowns were wonderful and fun. It's so sad to see the way people are looking at clowns now. Maybe I'm just one of the fortunate ones who chose not to go see movies like Poltergeist.

    Thanks so much for posting all the clowns and bringing back pleasant memories.

  15. I have never liked clowns either, and not because of any horror movies, as I never watch such. But I have just never found them funny, in fact a bit irritating and stupid. And I don't like the look of them. Who invented such a silly looking man with a big red nose, ugly hair, shoes way too big and clothes completely unfitting? Strange idea indeed. But you're right, everybody has an opinion on them.

    I think the tea set is quite ugly but I would love to own it. It would be a great conversation starter and fun to serve tea in. I like ugly things - I use to say "if there are no ugly things then there are no beautiful things either". Sanne philosophy, haha! Wishing you both a lovely weekend. :)


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