Dakota Datebook

Glass Wax Stencils

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

 

Harold Schafer, the president of the Gold Seal Company of Bismarck, received a national sales award on this date in 1957 for his ‘Glass Wax Stencils’ holiday promotion. Each year, the national journal Food Topics granted the awards based on the responses of thousands of American food retailers. Out of 16,000 national sales promotions that took place that year, Schafer’s Christmas stencil promotion was one of eight to win an award in the “New Product” category.

In an earlier interview, Schafer had admitted that the idea for Glass Wax stencils actually came from a school teacher who had written him a letter. The teacher said her students often used one of the company’s best-selling products to create images on the classroom’s windows. Glass Wax was a glass-cleaning product that left a white residue to be rubbed away. Apparently, the students thought the residue resembled snow, which spawned the idea for using it as a window decoration. Of course, the fact that wiping the Glass Wax residue away left the windows cleaner didn’t hurt, either.

Although a popular product, Glass Wax sales dipped during holiday months, people preferring to clean their windows in the spring and fall. Schafer, looking for ways to promote winter sales had an idea. He partnered with a Minneapolis advertising agency and created a set of twenty-three holiday cut-out stencils. In November of 1956, the company began advertising the stencil sets, which sold for fifty-nine cents apiece. The stencils were promoted on the Perry Como Show and the Mickey Mouse Club. Sales soared, and by mid-December, the stencils had sold out. Calls and letters flooded the Gold Seal offices, as parents searched for stencils for their children. With no time to produce more stencil, Schafer flew to Los Angeles and appeared on that night’s Perry Como Show. He stepped in front of the camera, explained the situation, and asked millions of Americans to share their stencil sets with neighbors, so that they could decorate their windows as well. With what became known as “The Good Neighbor” commercial, Schafer estimates the company sold fifty more carloads of Glass Wax that year, breaking the company’s December sales record.

 

Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job

 

Sources:

The Billings County Pioneer (Beach, ND), November 21, 1957: p. 6.

http://www.medora.org/data/upfiles/431688_Winter2011_News_8.pdf

http://www.americanradiohistory.com/Archive-BC-IDX/57-OCR/1957-01-14-BC-0040.pdf

http://holidayharbour.blogspot.com/2005/12/remember-glass-wax-stencils.html

 

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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