String Holders - Antique & Vintage
Before scotch tape, before paperclips and before desk staplers came about, the only way to fasten wrapped packages, letters, documents and files was with string or twine. Early patents for cast iron string holders date back to the 1860s and by the turn-of-the-century string holders were common place. Every general store and most retail stores had string holders (often called twine boxes) either sitting on or hanging near the check out counters. Sometimes they were affixed directly to the wrapping paper holder but most often they were free standing or hanging above the counter. They kept the string handy and helped to prevent it from tangling. Often a string cutting device (such as a pair of scissors or a knife) would also be at hand while some string holders had a cutting device built in or attached to the holder. Many string holders had a pocket or place to keep a pair of scissors.
From the mid19th century until around World War I, government offices generally used a special string or twine to wrap documents and to keep them together in their assigned files. The twine government used was a flat string and similar to a thin ribbon and had a reddish color to it. Hence the term: "red tape" which generally meant the more government string that was used the heftier the file and the greater the number of documents entwined therein.
Sometime during the Great Depression, chalkware string holders started showing up at Kresgis's stores and at Woolworth Dime Stores. They were an immediate success. During the 1940s most homes in America had a string holder of some sort. They remained a common household item until the early 1950s. Popular subjects included celebrities of the times, cartoon characters, cats and other animals and especially popular were black maids and black children. The later are the most popular with collectors today and generally command the higher values.
Prices can range from $50 to $250 for the cast iron models depending on size, age condition and degree of uniqueness, etc. Chalkware pieces usually range from $25 to $150 depending on condition but are getting hard to find and are therefore likely to increase in value. The black themed ceramic holders can command high prices and range from $100 to $1,000. String holders as part of advertising displays command the highest prices and can range to $2,000 and more depending on subject matter and condition.
This is a Barbours Irish advertising tin string holder and provides twine or string: "for shoe work" and "for harness work". It is about 2.5 inches high and about 3 inches in diameter.