Up to this point, our focus on Coca-Cola paraphernalia has aimed almost exclusively on long-lasting items. Throughout the last century the Coca-Cola Company distributed thermometers, clocks, coolers, and vending machines designed to last.
Now we shift our attention to some items that are perhaps more interesting for the opposite reason: they were meant to be disposable and so not very many have survived. Specifically, we’re going to examine festoons. These items were meant to be displayed above counters by tying either end with ribbons or strings. They would remain there until the next festoon arrived to replace it.
Design and Manufacture
Coca-Cola made their first festoons available in 1907 and continued distributing them until the mid-twentieth century. Because they were designed to be hung up, most festoons were made from lightweight cardboard or paper. A few designs were manufactured in wood or metal. Roughly one in ten could be folded out for counter-top display instead.
Rare Common Items
Coca-Cola sent out festoons regularly, several times a year. That regularity means that thousands upon thousands were produced over the course of roughly fifty years. So why are festoons such rare items?
They were meant to be seen from high up, so they were typically large. Their size made them hard to store after use, so most ended up in the trash when the next round came in. The vast number distributed also means that determined collectors can still find festoons in unopened packages. If a retailer tucked it away for later but never got around to stringing up the festoon, it can become a rare find for a lucky someone.
Festoons Subject Matter
The earliest festoon designs featured lovely young ladies almost exclusively, like the Hammock Girl featured here. That trend would continue throughout their run as promotional items, but many more themes would be incorporated.
Some of the more interesting designs included decorative flowers, sports cars, antique cars, picnic blanket layouts, tropical fish, and sports. Some festoons were even educational. Know Your State Tree listed and showed pictures of the appropriate plants. Know Your State Bird did the same with birds.
No matter the specific them, nearly every festoon showed smiling people enjoying a Coca-Cola. That was the point, really, wasn’t it?