Inside the Box, Part II

I’ve posted about this great box before, but I’ve known all along that I had more to say about it.  I bought this in an antique mall several years ago, and it was opened up so the interior was showing.  I can only imagine the surprise of the person who found this, probably stuck back in an attic or basement (The side has a hand-painted label:  Christmas Ornaments).  That’s because this ordinary box opened up to this:

I just makes me wonder how many things we pass by, thinking they are perfectly ordinary, or even ugly, without being able to see inside.

Being hidden, in the dark, is what saved this wonderful print.  The colors are crisp, and like new, even better than my photos show.  This box is almost 90 years old, and so does have a few age spots, but otherwise, the print is in great shape.

It might seem odd to us for these very dressed up people to be socializing on a beach, but it helped get across the message that the summer-weight woolens were appropriate even in the warmest climates.

A bit about Detmer Woolens:

The company was formed in 1885 (some sources say 1886) by Julian Francis Detmer of Cleveland.  They were importers and distributors of woolen yard goods, not the actual makers of it.  In 1908 a fire broke out in the Detmer office, located in the Parker Building in New York City.  The fire destroyed the building, and it was originally blamed on a revenge plot involving a group of Turks who had a rug import business in the building.  This was later proved not to be the case.

Evidently the wool import business was profitable, as the Detmers spent their summers at the Breakers, and they maintained a large yacht.   But all was not well, as in 1934 the second Mrs.Detmer traveled to Reno  to obtain a divorce (predating The Women by five years!). 

The next year, Julian Detmer retired from his business and along with a staff of 35 gardeners, developed Detmer Nurseries on his 40 acre estate in Tarrytown, New York.  In 1938 he was featured in Dale Carnegie’s column, billed as “one of the happiest men [Carnegie] had ever met.”  Carnegie credited this happiness to his enthusiasm with flowers and trees.

Detmer died in 1957, and his grand house stood empty.  In 1971 it burned.  The gardens were destroyed as the land was developed.


Filed under Collecting, Viewpoint

20 responses to “Inside the Box, Part II

  1. Wow, what a lovely interior! Such elegant folk!

    I could not help but think that a one word change to your phrase was relevant as well:

    I just makes me wonder how many people we pass by, thinking they are perfectly ordinary, or even ugly, without being able to see inside.

    I bet there are a lot of lovely people out there, hidden under less than fortunate exteriors.

    Thanks for the share FL!


  2. So incredibly beautiful! Thank you for sharing!


  3. Barb

    Wondrous! I am totally enchanted by the scene. Thank you for sharing.


  4. Oh wow! What a beauty! Look at those colours? Look at the outfits! I’m a huge fan of wool so seeing this is really neat!!


  5. I would have bought this in a heartbeat! I am a sucker for menswear and tailor oriented advertising. The men’s suits are so clearly of the period – slim leg pants with cuffs and without breaks, the slim fitted waisted jacket with natural shoulder – and it’s a suit I rarely find in reality.


  6. I’m glad so many of you love this! I had seen plenty of sample boxes from the 30s and 40s, all of which were somewhat subdued in design and in color. A quick websearch turned up a few more from the 1920s, including one with a snow sports theme. It’s more than double what I paid for this one…


  7. What a find – opening that lid and seeing the beautiful images must have felt like Christmas!


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  9. Nice piece you have! I just picked up a piece of vintage overcaoting from Detmer Woolens…so I googled it to try and establish an age and came across this. Nice stuff.


  10. The info regarding a 1934 divorce tied to Julian Detmer is incorrect. Please remove that sentence from your blog. A great grandson.


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  12. Michael Doran

    What a great find! Perhaps the Mrs. Detmer in Reno belonged to Billy Detmer (Wm) maybe Julian’s son. My family in Tattytown knew knew the Detmers & I remember the Billy spoken of and the house burning. A shame,it was fantastic.


  13. Michael Doran

    oops, just noticed the “Tattytown” in the above…sorry!


  14. Pat Russell

    The divorce in Reno pertained to Julian’s daughter, Esther M. (nee Detmer) BADEN, who then relocated to Los Angeles, CA. She had four children, one being my mother. “BILLY” was the oldest of the four siblings. Esther had the same name as her mother, Esther M. Detmer who died young. Its my understanding that Julian Francis Detmer may have remarried and the divorce you note in the New York Times in 1934 may have been Julian’s second wife that didnt work out. His daughter, Esther (my grandmother) never talked much about Julian’s remarriage, nor her own divorce. She and my Grandfather continued relations with their kids til death.


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