Saturday, August 8, 2020

The Ephemera Journal

Following up on the previous post, there is an article n the January 2015 issue of  The Ephemera Journal by Emily M. Orr that also references the showcases by Charles F. Biele and Sons used in department stores.

Starting on page 9, the article summaries points from  Orr's book and includes two pictures of Biele showcases from the trade catalogue found at the Hagley Museum and Library.

The article has the following text about Charles F. Biele and Sons while explaining the way goods were displayed:

The public grew accustomed to viewing objects through glass as visitors to trade exhibitions and museums, where glass was used in casework and vitrines that designated objects as exemplary in terms of their history, style, or manufacture. Just as in the fa├žade, the glass medium itself was an integral marker of modern construction. Shopfitters served the museum and the store with analogous products. For example, Charles F. Biele & Sons Co., “artisans in metal, glass and wood,” were a leading maker of showcases and vitrines for merchants and museums “from Massachusetts to California.”15 The family business was first established in 1867 and Charles F. Biele took over from his father in New York City in 1875. During the late 1880s, he and his brother Emil expanded the company and established operations in downtown New York. From the early nineteenth century, Beile made cases for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Morgan Library. The New York Sun reported “dealers in paintings, sculpture and antiques bring their special show-case problems to the old firm.”16 A photographic trade catalogue of the company’s products survives in the collection of the Hagley Library and includes glass fronted or glass topped showcases, mirrors, and stools. Some cases, customized with a merchant’s name and specialty, such as a case made for a hat maker A. Abrams (figure 6), suggest their use in a trade fair. Meanwhile other ornamental cases, such as the one for the jeweler LBJ Co. (figure 7) resemble the counter-top cases used in department stores that afforded close inspection of notions or jewelry. The ornamental cornice would have added a stylistic note and signaled the department store’s fashionability.

15Cases are a Special Problem,” New York Sun, December 31, 1938. 

16 Ibid