These are my beloved chalkware string holders. My collection is very small, a cat and an apple. The apple is about 9″ long and the cat about 7″. Antique and vintage string or twine holders come in all sorts of shapes, designs and are made of several different materials including cast metal, ceramic or chalk. String holders were once found in nearly every American home, before the advent of tape. String was used to wrap packages and letters and to hold documents together. These handy dispensers kept the string from tangling and available when needed. The earliest holders were made of cast iron, often painted and date from the 1860s. Chalkware holders were made in the 1930s-1950s. It is difficult to find vintage chalk or plaster items in good repair due to the fragile nature of the material. Often there are chips in the chalk or paint, even projecting parts completely broken away. Many times people repainted the holders. To find a holder with the original paint and little damage is very rare and unusual.
My holders are in pretty good shape. The kitten has the original finish with some paint loss and a few minor chips. I love the green eyes and the pretty buff color of the kitty. She is my favorite. The cat has a metal hanger embedded in the back. Both holders are hollow in back, forming a cavity to contain the string. Each has a hole for the string to feed out. The apple has some more serious wear to the paint and a couple bigger chips on the leaves. I’m undecided if I will touch up the larger areas of paint loss. It would make the piece more attractive but would detract from the original finish. So far I have left it alone and find it very pretty just the way it is.
I’d like to add to my chalkware collection with a chicken or rooster and perhaps a floral design. I don’t want an extensive set of holders, just a few of the nicest I can find. People ask why I need so many string holders since I use string about three times per year. I think they are adorable and wonderful pieces of Americana, a nearly forgotten part of our history that should be remembered, if only to appreciate tape.