Behold my awesome thing:
No, it’s not a cash register drawer. It’s a Vanity Organizer, manufactured by the W.F. Goodell Co. of Louisville, Kentucky. Says so right on the front:
The most exciting part of this object is not what it says on the front, but on the back:
It's the old Breyer logo! Told you I wasn’t imagining it!
One of these Vanity Organizers came up on eBay several years ago, but I was outbid, and not by a small amount. The vendor who listed it mistakenly identified it as Bakelite, or Catalin, or some other buzzword that vintage plastic collectors lose their minds at the mention of.
Fortunately, the vendor on eBay who listed my newest treasure actually did his research, and even went into some detail in his listing about the likelihood of this being a Breyer-molded piece. I’d like to think that my earlier blog post about it might have been part of that research, but I haven’t gotten around to asking him yet.
This thing isn’t just huge - 13 by 15 inches - it’s heavy, too: it weighs almost exactly two pounds. If it’s not Tenite, it’s something with a similar density - you could definitely do some damage to someone with it. It’s a little hard to tell from the photographs, but the color is sort of a slightly mottled, swirly brown - think burled wood, not tortoiseshell. It’s not too different from my clock with the same mold mark.
I haven’t found much information about the W.F. Goodell Company, yet. If you Google the name, you’ll find a couple of pictures of a William F. Goodell in the University of Louisville’s online archive. The pictures are from ca. 1930-1932, and mentions that he was a manager for Equitable Life of Iowa, an insurance company.
I don’t know how or when he took the leap from insurance to manufacturing. Or why he would have chosen a custom molder in Chicago over someone more local.
Breyer might really have just been the closest, or the closest one with the lowest bid. More local molders might have turned him down for various reasons. It could have been a friend of a friend thing, too. I really don’t know. There weren’t a lot of custom molders back then to choose from - according to Jeffrey Meikle’s American Plastic: A Cultural History, there were only about 370 molding and fabricating companies operating in the U.S. by 1946.
You might have noticed that each compartment on this tray is labeled for various vanity-type objects - combs, brushes, manicure equipment, curlers and pins. You can tell that a man designed this thing: there are not one, but two separate compartments for "miscellaneous" items! Was Mr. Goodell too embarrassed - or too intimidated - to ask the missus for a little advice about the average contents of a lady’s vanity?
(Her name was Gladys, by the way. Her picture is in the University of Louisville’s online archive, too.)
You know what this latest acquisition means, don't you? I’m only an International Harvester steering wheel and a couple of Money Managers short of a totally rad "Before Breyer was Breyer" Collector’s Class entry.