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Holidays on Display Paperback – August 30, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-1568986951 ISBN-10: 1568986955 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press; 1 edition (August 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568986955
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568986951
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.5 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,252,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


William L. Bird's Holidays on Display captures the history of an art and industry, with many rarely seen photographs of yesteryear. -- The Morning News, December 17, 2007

"Such sights, of course, are still visible in certain major cities, but the heyday of elaborate store decorations and seasonal parades is clearly behind us, so much so that a review of the best of the tradition is now something you'd find in a museum. Which may be one reason the National Museum of American History created `Holidays on Display,' an exhibition that opened Friday. Composed mainly of photographs and illustrations, the show looks at the art and business behind such seasonal spectacles as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Tournament of Roses Parade, the Miss America Pageant boardwalk parade, even the Washington Monument Centennial Celebration in 1948." --The Washington Post

"The holidays are a time of excess, from decorations and food to parades and retail displays. We splurge on gifts, we make rich feasts for friends and family; we gather close to the people we love, seeking comfort in midwinter. The Smithsonian invited Santa & Mrs. Clause and Twinkle the Elf to the National Museum of American History to open a new small exhibit on the Holidays. Focused on Parades of all seasons, from Tournament of Roses through to Macy's Thanksgiving, and the retail window displays of department stores (something of a relic to those of us under 40) all across the US, the new exhibit has photos and artifacts from holiday celebrations across the country." --We Love DC

"Santa Claus is making an early appearance to open a new exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History on the art and business of commercial holiday displays.

The exhibit is a first for the museum and opens Friday. It covers the elaborate department store windows and retail displays dating back to the 1920s, as well as the creation of floats for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

During its heyday in the 1950s, the Woodward and Lothrop department store in D.C. was known to have featured live penguins in a window display.

The exhibit follows the research of curator William Bird who examined the history of holiday displays from the early 20th century in a companion book." --MyFOXDC

"Holidays on Display provides a vivid set of color photos capturing department store festive window displays and reviews the overall art of the holiday display. The author traces this display's changes from basic holiday decorations to works of art, floats, and more, offering a fine history of rare photos and ephemera in the process. Any library strong in holiday art needs this." --The Midwest Book Review

About the Author

William L. Bird, Jr., is a historian and curator at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. He is author of Paint By Number and co-author of Design for Victory: World War II Posters on the American Home Front.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 56 people found the following review helpful By ThePeachMartini on August 7, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book definitely was not what I was expecting. I usually base my purchases on the reviews of others - this item was no exception. I did however struggle since there was only one review and it was a bit vague as to what the book was about. Even the description of the book was a little vague, I thought.

What this book is: A great history on the art of window decorating and parade float making - the details are good, and the pictures are nice as well. I did find some of the information interesting, however it wasn't what I was expecting. There were some photos, but they were more to depict the literature given to those who enrolled in the window display vocational schools and some of the catalogs for window & store display items. It is an account of how window dressing became popular, and how most of the individuals who did the displays were men who had a balance of creativity, business sense, and carpentry skills. It also details how this evolved into designing parade floats and the mail order companies that sprang up specializing in display/design kits.

What this book IS NOT: A collection of photographs of various window displays at Christmastime and other holidays. I was hoping for images of department store windows - like the ones seen in "A Christmas Story" where families gathered around on a winter evening taking in all the sights and sounds around them. Nor is it a collection of memories of those who remember the times when it was a family tradition to have an outing into town just to see the displays and visit with Santa and his elves. (If any one knows of books like that please let me know!!)

If you're interested in the art of window decorating, displays, or parade floats, this book is for you. One tidbit I didn't know until I read through this book is that Frank L Baum was a window display designer.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By konacoffee on October 24, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
More about the art of display and such and not so much photos of old Christmas window displays. It is still a nice book to have if you are a decorator or interior designer.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Calvin Hanrahan on January 9, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book celebrates "visual merchandizing" with the history and social relevance. Read with The World of Department Stores for both entertainment and education. Holidays gives insight that will make your next "window shopping" experience at Macy's or other big city department stores an even more satisfying visit.
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More About the Author

William L. Bird, Jr. is Curator of the Political Campaign Collection at the National Museum of American History - Smithsonian Institution. He is the author of several books and curator of exhibits, including "American Television from the Fair to the Family, 1939-1989;" "Vote: The Machinery of Democracy;" "Paint by Number: Accounting for Taste in the 1950s;" "Holidays on Display;" and "America's Doll House: The Miniature World of Faith Bradford." His latest exhibit, "Souvenir Nation: Relics, Keepsakes and Curios from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History," opens at the Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., August 9, 2013. The exhibit's companion book is published by the Smithsonian in association with Princeton Architectural Press.