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.