Q. Over the past 12 years, I have collected 46 figural wooden smoking stands. I think most of them are from the 1920s, '30s, and '40s. Each one is a wooden-cutout silhouette about 3 feet tall, painted to look like a person or comic character. The figure's outstretched arm holds a large ashtray. Dealers I have bought these from don't know much more about them than I do. Tell me how and where they were made.
A. Not much is known about the origin of wooden smoking stands like yours. They were made in the United States in a variety of shapes and colors, most of them based on cartoon characters of the time-including Popeye, Jiggs, and Boob McNutt. The oldest stands are probably from the 1930s. They may have been woodworking projects in shop classes or Boy Scout craft projects. Patterns were available in general-circulation magazines. The stands are all about 3 feet tall so that the ashtray sits at the level of a chair's arms.
More examples of wooden smoking stands are pictured in Smokerama: Classic Tobacco Accoutrements by Philip Collins (Chronicle Books, San Francisco, c1992). Smoking stands of black characters are sought by collectors of both tobacciana and black memorabilia. Black Americana Price Guide edited by Kyle Husfloen (Antique Trader Books, Dubuque, IA, c1996) lists a black butler cutout smoking stand with a glass ashtray at $250.
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