History of miniatures and the Girl Graduate Plan
Below is a direct quote from the book, A History of the Lane Company, The First Fifty Years, by Helen Hughes Lane, copyright 1963. This excerpt is described as an interview/conversation between the author and our hero, Lane Sales Manager, J. Arthur Krauss. The photo below, dated 1925, is of Mr. J. Arthur Krauss with a miniature chest on his lap. Note the hasp on the box.
From the book...
“The biggest promotional plan I ever came up with was the Girl Graduate Plan.”
“Although this plan wasn’t officially introduced until 1930, the spade work was done in the twenties. It started this way,” Krauss reminisced, “the boys in Altavista started making small miniature chests at home as a kind of hobby. Those chests were about the size of a girl’s jewelry box – they made them in all kinds of styles. Some were plain and some were decorated and very intricate. The wives and girlfriends were crazy about them. I saw the possibilities of those little things and wanted to start making them in the plant. Now, Laurence Loftin (Vice President and Treasurer) was one of the finest men The Lane Company ever had, but he couldn’t see the idea of fooling around with those miniatures. I couldn’t put the idea over to him, so I had to look elsewhere.
“I remember I saw some miniature chests in Rothchilds, a clothing store in Kansas City, found that the supplier was an Italian who had a little shop over his garage. I got in touch with him and contracted for all he could make, paying $1.35 apiece and reselling them to the dealers. We worked on the carload sales plan, advertising on a Friday night and closing the Special on Monday. Boy, I wanna tell you that thing hit. We later found outfits in Ohio (Pilliod?) and Chicago (Peterson Brothers?) that could make the miniatures and bought ’em by the thousands!”
Company lore (we've heard this from many former employees) says the factory workers were using the cut-offs from the cedar used for lining in the big chests to make their boxes and Mr. Krauss took notice and ran with the idea. So, not far off from what he said in this interview.
There is no evidence, yet, when Lane opened the Miniature Department in the Lane Altavista factory but is was likely in the early 1930’s as the factory was re-built after the “Big Fire” in August of 1930. Tall Fluted Foot (TFF) boxes are assumed to be the first miniatures made in Altavista and the first one we have a firm date on is 1936. Further, we have a Tall Hasp Bun Foot (THBF) box dated 1935. The hypothesis is THBF was made by either Pilliod of Ohio or Peterson Brothers of Chicago and sold to Lane. See Box Variations Chronology for more details.