As a child growing up in the Amana Colonies, a German-speaking community in Iowa, the highlight of Christmas each year was when my mother would bring out two large boxes filled with small, painted wooden toys which had been sent to her in the early 1920's by relatives living in Germany. They were vibrantly painted and simple - yet, at the same time, intricate - little wooden tin-wheeled vehicles, carousels, market stands, animals and people. My sister and I would spend hours creating little scenes with them underneath the Christmas tree. Back then, they had no name - but I knew I LOVED them! Somewhere along the way, I learned they were called "Erzgebirge," literally translating to "Ore Mountains," which is the region they were - and still are - made in Germany. I knew I had to have more, but I wasn't prepared for what all lay in store. The region began creating these wonderful pieces in the early 1800's and even earlier in, of course, a more primitive form that one can see evolve over the years to the pieces still being produced to this day.
What I find most fascinating is the reason why so much Erzgebirge can be found in Pennsylvania in particular and the northeastern United States. In the early 1900's just after World War 1, little Erzgebirge toys were sent by the Germans to their transplanted relatives in the United States as "thank you" gifts in return for food and supplies which the Americans had sent to Germany during the years of hardship after the war. Consequently, Erzgebirge can be found more easily in areas having a large German-American population, especially in the Northeastern US, specifically New York and Pennsylvania.
Wooly sheep are especially sought after by collectors. These are three unusual examples of Erzgebirge sheep on rocker, mother and baby as pull toy, and a sheep nodder on wheels.
Wonderfully primitive and early (ca. 1870's) Erzgebirge angel candle holder made with Brotteig (bread dough) arms and lovely painting. Note the sponge painting technique used on the apron and around the base.
Welcome to Living Tastefully’s “Antique of the Week” page. Our love of antiques is reflected in every aspect of our everyday lives. We are passionate about collecting and also love functional antiques that can actually be used and not only admired. Hopefully we can inspire you to incorporate antiques in your home and your life to add charm and beauty to your surroundings.