A Beistle Halloween

If you have ever decorated for Halloween, chances are you have hung a Beistle die cut, or unfurled a Beistle honeycomb tissue decoration. Pronounced “bye-stle”, the Beistle company has been around since 1900. They are one of the the oldest and largest manufacturer of decorations and party goods still producing in the USA today. I had the great pleasure this past week to visit the company here in Pennsylvania for an inside look at the amazing things they have created, and I am very pleased to share it with you. Our tour began with the current president Tricia Lacy (the great grand-daughter of the founder) I made her the plush above as a thank you for having us. The plush jack-o-lantern is based on an iconic Beistle die cut that you can still buy today.

The Beistle company was first founded by Martin Luther Beistle in 1900. M.L. started the company in the basement of his home outside of Pittsburgh creating calendars, wooden items, and feather trees. We were shown one of the feather trees from the 1900’s complete with green dyed feathers covering the it’s branches. The chicken feathers used to be dyed green in big vats in the back yard. You would never realize they were chicken feathers until you look closely.
In the early 1900’s the company was moved back to M.L.’s home town in the area of Shippensburg PA, presumably because his father-in-law wanted to have his daughter close to home. At first the business was run out of a wagon factory owned by his father-in-law, but then they were able to move to their own facility not long after.

In 1910 M.L. Beistle partnered with the Paper Novelty Company, and brought the technology to produce honeycombed tissue to the United States. He engineered and built new machines for this process, and the engineering department at Beistle still continues to create new machines for their products even today. We got to take a look at the honeycomb machine and it was quite amazing.
After our tour of the factory, during which all the workers were referred to by name, we went to meet with the art department. The art department were all a really amazing group of people. Even though they were working hard on the upcoming catalog, they each took the time to meet with me and tell me about the work they were doing. The company has a family vibe, and there are many various family workers in all the different departments. While the company has grown since 1900, you can tell that the employees are still very important, and there is a feeling of everyone being “in it together”.

One thing Beistle employees have down-pat is Halloween. Rick Buterbaugh the art director showed us his Halloween costume from the previous year. He dressed as a the giant from Jack In The Bean Stalk, and the Jack inside of his mask’s mouth was animatronic. It’s arms would fail and Jack yelled for help, and he made it himself.

Joe Palmissano from the art department also had a few of his previous year’s costumes on display in his office. He created the eyes for the frog from domed cup lids, and the eyes of the killsbury dough boy from plungers. There is no shortage of creativity in the Beistle art department. And it doesn’t surprise me that Beistle’s artwork is still something that stands tall against competitors even today. Their attention to detail is really amazing.

After lunch with the art department we were given some time to explore the extensive archives. Dan Hardesty, one of the artist’s, took us into a room filled with flat files and filing cabinets. The company has been saving at least one of each product produced since 1900, and they continue to archive items even today.

The archives are a treasure trove of beautiful die cuts, games, original line art, mock-ups, and honey comb paper products. In some of the largest file drawers we saw honey comb tissue hanging decorations that when opened would be about 5 feet tall.

The very best part of the Beistle company having these extensive archives is that they have begun to bring back some of the old designs. Vintage Beistle is a new line of paper goods that the company has produced this year. Each of the products they introduce are reproductions of actual vintage artwork from the archives. I already purchased some myself, and I was very pleased to see that they are of amazing quality. The lines and print are crisp, and beautifully printed. If you too like the idea of Beistle creating reproductions from their archive, I encourage you to contact them and let them know.
I have lots more to share with you, and not just Halloween! So look forward to even more posts. You can find the new vintage line of Beistle reproductions here, there is also a vintage beistle blog (all about the new line) found here, and sign up for their email blast newsletter here for a coupon code good until oct 31st (so hurry!).
Beside’s vintage reproduction you can find lots of other Beistle products online here. I do urge you to support this company, not only are they employing people here in the United States, they are also still making these wonderful paper decorations here in the United States. I love the idea of supporting an amazing company like this that has been bringing us all such holiday joy since 1900! I also still have hopes that they will create a museum from their archives. I have already told them I would happily pay a $15 cover to explore such museum.
I want to also just add that I have not been compensated in any way for the post, I have such a place in my heart for vintage Halloween, and I am honored that the Beistle company allowed me a glimpse inside their company. I’m excited to share all the photos with you, and hope you love this look at Halloween history as much as me. I’ll have even more Halloween photos for you on Monday, so please check back.

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22 Responses to A Beistle Halloween

  1. Christy B says:

    I love Beistle items!! I own many vintage pieces and now thanks to your link to their vintage remake line I will be adding so much more! Thank you for sharing this with us. I was drooling over all the wonderful pictures!

  2. Tasha says:

    Amazing photos Heidi! Heather did an awesome job. I’ve heard from others that the company has such a family feel and that it’s a great place to work. Glad you enjoyed your visit, and thank you for posting such great photos of the old images. I wish they would reproduce it all, hehe.

  3. Darla says:

    I never knew it was in Shippensburg, that is so cool! You are so lucky to get to see the inside! I am in love with their vintage line. I for one hope they bring it back for all the holidays! I can’t wait to see what else you post!

  4. Heidi Kenney says:

    Tasha, me too…I’d buy one of each!

  5. Heidi Kenney says:

    Darla, me too! I would like to buy one of everything, the old stuff just has such a great look to it.

  6. Patty says:

    I love the plush pumpkin you made for the president! Looks like such a fun place! I wish I worked there. I remember as a young girl how my mom would decorate our house on Halloween Beistle die cuts. Looking at all the pictures really takes me back in time. Thanks for sharing your trip with us.

  7. Liz says:

    Awesome! I just pulled out the boxes of Beistle and Eureka Halloween decorations that I collect. I have many pieces from the 50s that are my treasures. Such great graphics.

    So cool they archive everything.

    Thanks for the photos!

  8. Laura Miller says:

    Why did I not know about them bringing back the vintage Halloween line sooner??!!! I love Beistle Halloween and buy all I find at thrift stores! But now I know I can get them online, woohoo!!! Do you know if they put any of the vintage reproduction in stores or only online?

  9. Heidi Kenney says:

    Laura, im not sure but I will try and find out! Im pretty sure they are in stores too, because ive seen stores online selling them..

  10. Heidi Kenney says:

    Liz, Do you have photos of yours on your blog? I’d love to see them!

  11. Beth says:

    That is great how family oriented they are. You don’t see many companies still in the original family line anymore.

    The items they brought back are amazing. Its so hard to choose which ones I want eekkk!!

  12. rae says:

    oh wow! what a cool experience! i can’t wait to see more! and yes, I would gladly pay to go in a museum to see all of that stuff. i can’t even imagine how fun it was to dig through those archives!

  13. rae says:

    ok, i just bought the cat band! and one for a friend for christmas! i hope they come out with more! and christmas stuff!

  14. Susana says:

    you are so lucky to have the pleasure of touring such place! thank you for sharing it with us all, because i’m so far :( i would probably never visit such. I think they are the ultimate when it comes to Halloween, I too appreciate they’re wonderful art vintage images from Hallows past. Thanks again for sharing .

  15. Lina says:

    Thanks, quite great post.

  16. Doug Preba says:

    This brings back a lot of fond memories. I didn’t realize the company was still around today. I will have to order some of the vintage line for my mother.

  17. megztiniai says:

    I love it! Can’t wait to see more!

  18. katie says:

    So jealous! I bet you saw so many amazing things!

  19. Jenny Smith says:

    That’s so great that you went and did that! I love that you were passionate about something and you made it happen. I guess it goes to show that it never hurts to ask!

  20. Heidi Kenney says:

    Jenny, thanks and I agree—it never hurts to ask :)

  21. Heidi Kenney says:

    Susana, it was really amazing! I feel ever so lucky!

  22. Pingback: Vintage Beistle (part 2) - My Paper Crane