Following a highly successful Christmas display in 2016, the Old Treasury Building is once again showcasing homemade decorations of the 1920s!
By the 1920s sophisticated decorations were available to buy. But most people could not afford them. These are the kinds of decorations they made instead. Newspapers of the time printed designs and patterns for cheerful decorations which could be made at home using readily available materials. As a reminder of times past, the Old Treasury Building used these patterns to recreate a homely Christmas in the caretaker's basement flat.
A 1920s Christmas
The decorations seen in these rooms are all made by hand using patterns published in Melbourne newspapers in the 1920s. They are designed to be made at home using inexpensive materials. While we don’t know what the Maynard family did at Christmas time, it is possible they made decorations like these.
Shop-bought or home-made?
In 1920s Melbourne the department stores offered a wide range of decorations and gifts for Christmas. Shop facades were brightly lit with electric lights to attract shoppers. But many ordinary people had little cash to spare at this time. So newspapers were full of advice about making simple gifts and decorations at home. They also warned parents about the increasing expense of buying new and elaborate children’s toys.
What materials were used?
Instructions for decorations suggested using coloured paper, crepe and tissue paper, and card. Generally components were glued together, though some larger decorations, like lanterns, called for hat wire, or hat pins. Hat pins were especially long and strong pins – and were very sharp!
The effect of frost and snow could be created with cotton wool, or glue sprinkled with Epsom salts – a common household chemical. Tinsel was always popular and tinsel ‘strings’ cost 3 pence each in 1927.
A desirable novelty in the 1920s was coloured candles, which were seen as particularly Christmassy. Candles on Christmas trees were not encouraged though, for fear of fire.
Open: 13 November 2017
End: 7 January 2018
The decorations in this exhibition have been created by the volunteers of the Old Treasury Building.
Their contribution is greatly appreciated.