Holiday promotional gifts from merchants sure have changed over the years!


RIPPEY, Iowa, Jan. 20, 2020 — Christmas 2019 has passed, as has the whole decade of the twenty teens. The tree and the various Christmas house decorations have been placed back in the totes and stored in the basement. Most of the newly received gifts have been incorporated into the household. New turtleneck shirts have been worn and laundered. New books are stacked in priority of reading.

Mary Weaver ProfileAs I reflected about gifts this Christmas from merchants to this household – those “thank yous” for our business in the past year – I was startled to realize that we did not receive even one calendar!

Oh, how the “times they are a changin’,” as cell phones now serve as cameras, clocks, and other communication tools, including calendars.

Thus began an analysis of business gifts in Christmases past.

The earliest one pictured below, appears to be a hand-painted plate from the “Crumley and States General Merchandise” store. Our “History of Rippey” book indicates Halsey Crumley and Charles States began the general store in 1906.

The second image in the photo is a lightly-pressed paper advertising the services of “Ernest J. Clapp, Blacksmith.” It appears that it held note paper. These two items probably can be dated in the 1920s. My recall is Ernie came to Iowa from Wales, and had been severely burned in a blacksmith accident prior to coming to Rippey. He spoke with a very recognizable British brogue. I recall taking plow lays to his shop with my father to be sharpened, and other metal implements to be heated in the forge, and then pounded into repair.

The next photo is from Allan Sieck’s collection of Rippey historical items. You can identify they were all useful items for earlier households. At the upper left are items from the First National Bank of Rippey. They provided a thermometer with a lucky penny along with a note card holder. One of the most interesting items in the photo is a yellow thermometer from the Rippey Farmer’s Coop to use in measuring soil temperature at specific depths. The instructions indicate to “place into the ground at the desired planting level at 9:00 a.m.”

Errol Wilson’s Phillips 66 service station gave a plastic, bright yellow egg separator, reminding customers that Errol was “A Good Egg to Know.” These items in this photo probably date to the early ’40s and ’50s, based partially upon the phone numbers, as the Howard Implement Company selling De Soto and Plymouth Cars had the phone as “ Bell 12.”

In the ’60s, the businesses seemed to be catering to the women in the household with frequent complimentary Christmas gifts of kitchen utensils. See photo. I still frequently uses some of these items today, some 60 years later!

So finally, to 2020, the complimentary gifts given have diminished greatly. This year the Weaver household received a ham and bacon from the local seed corn dealer, no kitchen items, and no CALENDARS. See photo

All these historical promotional items, and others from Rippey’s past, will be on display Aug. 1, 2020, during the Rippey Sesquicentennial celebration.

You can comment on this story in the space below here, or write directly to the columnist by email at The author, who lives outside Rippey, is an active member of the Greene County Iowa Historical Society.



  1. Great selection of Rippey business souvenirs. I will need to share some that I have for the display from 1st National Bank and other businesses.

    Nancy Hanaman, Rippey IA

  2. Our household lived by the Rippey Elevator, later Rippey Coop. (We had those) wall calendars, with doctor’s appointments, birthdays and special occasions duly noted.

    Tim Acton

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