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Remember Yorkraft? Pennsylvania Dutch to Sixties decor

Ad from Pennsylvania Dutchman, August 1946
Ad from Pennsylvania Dutchman, August 1946

One thing leads to another, or, off on another tangent.

A valuable reference for research on the “Pennsylvania Dutch” (Pennsylvania Germans) is the now defunct Pennsylvania Folklife magazine, published first in 1946 as The Pennsylvania Dutchman. The articles were scholarly, but popular. The founding editors were well known historians Dr. Alfred Shoemaker, Dr. Donald Yoder and Dr. J. William Frey. The last issue appeared in 1997. I will tell you more about this very good resource later.

As I was reading an article in one of the 1946 issues, a Yorkraft ad caught my eye. They were a York company who manufactured all kids of decorative signs and novelties, including Pennsylvania Dutch trinkets. The ad reads:

Pennsylvania Dutch…

Greeting Cards and Gift items, for inspiration, draw upon a rich store of folklore and folk-arts of the Pennsylvania Dutch who have probably contributed more than any other group, to the Early American Folk Arts.

Yorkraft has caught the charm and spirit of their decoration and design, their quaint speech and humor and their picturesque dress and customs, which still persist in Pennsylvania and to some extent in other parts of the country settled by Pennsylvania Dutch folks.

Products listed were: “Yorkraft Boxed Note Cards, Everyday Cards, Bridge Tallies, House Blessings, Place Mats, Napkins, Christmas Cards, etc.” Interested parties were to write York Studios, 350 South Albemarle St., York, Pa. [Now the site of Continental Signs.]

From Greater York in Action, 1968
From Greater York in Action, 1968

Yorkraft, Inc. appears in Greater York in Action, published in 1968 by the York Area Chamber of Commerce. Decorating trends, and Yorkraft’s products, had changed in 20 years. Perhaps the coming Bicentennial was shifting interest to the 18th century. The company description in the YACC book is:

Yorkraft, Inc., maintains a four-story manufacturing plant at 550 South Pine Street, for the purpose of dealing in the firm’s principal commodity—nostalgia. Tavern signs, proud American eagles, soldiers in buckskin, quaint clocks, famous old trains and ships—these symbols from America’s colorful past have made Yorkraft a nationally known name in the home decorating field. Yorkcraft’s old-fashioned stick candy, another symbol of Americana, is charmingly displayed in apothecary jars and has become prominent in shops and resorts across the country.

Basically, Yorkraft works with wood. Tavern signs are faithfully reproduced in hand screened colors on wood backgrounds that are subtly antiqued to recreate the effect of the originals. Eagles and soldiers are carved and hand painted in the rough textured style of Colonial times. And if the required mood is one of elegance, Yorkraft provides that too.

Yorkraft’s collection of wall decorations and accessories numbers well over three hundred individual pieces. Decorators use Yorkraft with great success throughout the home and in countless commercial installations.

I remember stopping in and browsing occasionally at their outlet store at the factory. I think I have a large L sign packed away somewhere that never made it to the wall. I remember seeing jars of candy sticks for sale in various gift shops, but I didn’t remember that they were connected to Yorkraft.

From Greater York in Action, 1968
From Greater York in Action, 1968