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Churchill Collectables: Churchill Measures UP!

WSC tape measure 

This month’s article proves Churchilliana includes the unexpected and unusual. Only two inches in height and made of celluloid, Churchill’s head contains a very thin, cloth tape measure. The invention of celluloid in the 1890’s quickly caused the widespread manufacture of cheaply produced novelties to sell in dime stores. Molded tape measures like this were popular sewing novelties from the late 1800’s through the 1930’s.  While there are no markings which identify the manufacturer, the piece dates to 1924–1929 when Churchill served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the second Baldwin cabinet; similar tape measures molded as the heads of Prime Ministers Stanley Baldwin and David Lloyd George were also produced. Although Lloyd George’s term as Britain’s last Liberal Prime Minister ended in 1922, he remained a popular and active political figure until his death in 1945.

The tape measure is spring wound and extended by pulling on Churchill’s cigar! Likewise, the tape within the Baldwin mate is extended by pulling on his iconic pipe. As for Lloyd George, known for his gift of the gab, one simply pulls on an oversized pair of lips! Given the fragile nature of early celluloid, few of these have survived. An item cheaply produced to sell in a dime store is now a cherished relic of the early career of one of the world’s greatest statesmen.

Brian Krapf formerly served as President of the American Political Items Collectors, which is devoted to the preservation and study of America’s political heritage. He has been honored with APIC’s highest award: induction into the organization’s Hall of Fame. Items from the Krapf collection have been featured in History Channel documentaries and also in major print media publications. He has also served as a national advisor to eBay in the areas of security and fraud detection, and he designed eBay’s current political memorabilia listing categories.

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