Many years ago, after our Mother had died and our Father was in a nursing home, my sister and I had to close up our childhood home. This is a task that most of us will have to do sometime during our lifetime. It is certainly a bittersweet task going through items that our parents loved enough to keep: things that they decided to collect, pictures that we painted as children, favorite pieces of clothing, dishes, pots and pans and furniture. Well, you know.
When we were going through the kitchen and dividing up china and silver and other things, I came across Mother’s cookie cutters. There was a tree, nativity figures of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, an angel, a donkey, and a gingerbread man. They were a bright red plastic and I know that she made many decorated cookies for us growing up. She even used cookie cutters to cut out pieces of clay which she painted and now hang on my Christmas tree every year. The funny little gingerbread man with a happy face on one side and a frown on the other; the bright rooster with the red comb (red being hard to achieve in ceramics way back in the 50’s); and the little soldier with his blue cap. Sister didn’t mind, so those went into my pile of treasures.
Over the years, I’ve picked up a few more cutters here and there at flea markets. And each year, I’ve been hanging these little red cookie cutters on an artificial tree in our kitchen. They look so festive and so fun that I really don’t want to take them down after Christmas. And since I add in some wooden red hearts – they look wonderful through Valentine’s Day.
A couple of months ago, I was out at the Big Flea and came across a vendor with lots of red cutters spread across her table. Of course I had to stop and go through them! She began to tell me a story about their origin. It seems that King Arthur Flour Company gave them out as a promotional gift in the 20s and 30s. And that some of the first ones were of King Arthur and his knights. Those were very expensive so I admired them but moved on to the $3 and $4 ones! I found a Wise Man, and elephant, a Santa and a baker.
I tried Googling to find out more but couldn’t come up with much information. On a whim, I decided to go on the King Arthur Flour site to see if there was anything in their history. Not a word about red cookie cutters. But I clicked the Contact Us button and sent an email asking if they could tell me more.
The following emails give an example of over the top customer service. (I took out the spacing in the emails because this blog was getting really really long!)
From Shannon in customer service:
Thank you for contacting us here at King Arthur Flour. I am not sure what those beautiful sounding cookie cutters were for as far as a promotional item from the 1930s!!! It sure sounds really interesting though. I have passed your query onto to one of our employee owners with a vast knowledge of King Arthur History and the resources to find someone who might know something about these cool artifacts of history!
We will let you know if we discover anything!
From me: Here are a couple of photos and I plan on taking individual shots. Will be interested to know if we can get some history on these. The woman who sold a few to me in December seemed quite sure that they were a promotional gift from King Arthur’s Flour. And she had a few of the early ones such as a friar, and a knight. Thanks so much and I look forward to hearing from you. Anne Lineberger
PS Am including 2 photos of a few of these red ornaments. I do love them!
From Shannon: Thank you for the pictures. One of our bakers also has the Christmas tree cookies cutter from your picture; she said that the Garland dots on the tree are Morse code for Merry Christmas! Isn’t that neat!
I also have another baker who has provided us with a link to check on the authenticity of vintage cookies cutters:
We will probably hear back from one of the company curators within the next week or so with information about the history of them! Thanks again Anne, Shannon
From me: Dear Shannon, That article was awesome!!! So glad to read it. And fascinating to know about the Christmas tree. I immediately went through all of mine and divided out the ones made in Hong Kong from the others. Not that I don’t like the ones from Hong Kong but glad to know the difference. Unfortunately, both of my little red tree ornaments are both made in Hong Kong so that will be something that I keep my eye out for in the year to come!Thanks so much for taking the time to look into this for me. I’ve loved learning more about one of my favorite things! Think with this new information, I’ll take photos of each and make a little digital book to document them. Sincerely, Anne Lineberger
From Shannon: Hi Anne,I have received this very interesting information from the Sands Family (The Family that owned King Arthur Flour in the 1900s before it became the Employee Owned Company it is today). Here is there message:
“In the 1920’s and ’30’s King Arthur Flour packed those cookie cutters as “premiums” inside the sacks of KAF. (They also used pie tins and, during WWII, even had a “promotion” of cards with pictures of airplanes, tanks and other military equipment.) Again, they had a promotion that supplied some 30 colorful pictures of birds and a chart to affix them to. My favorite was the KAF apron with the original barrel-head trademark on it! Also offered via mail was a pastry cloth and rolling pin cover. As a young boy, I used to fold up the pastry cloths along with the rolling pin cover and a printed “directions” paper into manila envelopes for mailing to customers. I think they cost $ .50 cents!”
Hope this helps explain a little of how the promotional items from King Arthur got around the country, I am sure your cookie cutters were part of a Holiday promotion in there somewhere.
As Always, Happy Baking, Shannon
From me: Dear Shannon,How fun to get this news about the cookie cutters! I’ll be sure and put this information into the little digital book that I’m making about the history and why I chose to collect them. I know that there are others who adore these little red cutters as I do. Hmm – we might need to start a FB page as a support group for this harmless addiction! Thank you very much for your effort in tracking down the answers for me!! You’ve gone above and beyond customer service and I’ll always be a true King Arthur Flour groupie! Anne Lineberger
If you’ve gotten all the way through this blog – bless you! And I hope you’ll click on the link to read more information about these red plastic cookie cutters.
As for me, I’m off for a sister fix! And maybe even look for a few more cookie cutters to add to my collection!
Happy memory making and baking too!
Content Used:Christmas Is DK