It turns out that my unknown/mystery jewelry maker had a presence (either in their own booth or through on-site vendors) at the 1934 World’s Fair in Chicago. This further establishes the heyday of their manufacturing as having been the mid-1930s.
Chicago had previously hosted a precursor to what would later be called a World’s Fair; it was the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Exactly 40 years later, the much-changed city welcomed visitors to the 1933 World’s Fair. It was originally meant to run for only one year, but the fact that its overwhelming popularity caused it to actually turn a profit – remember, this was the middle of the Great Depression era – prompted it to re-open for a second season. Thus, the first run was from mid-May to mid-November 1933, and the second was from May 26th to October 31st 1934. This is why some Fair souvenirs are dated 1933 and others 1934. The official title of the fair was A Century of Progress; in this case, ‘century’ referenced Chicago’s Centennial.
This flyer is for the second (1934) season of the Fair. One hundred exhibits/attractions are listed, including a few that sound a bit odd today, such as the Infant Incubator and the Texas Company 220-Foot Thermometer. Despite the Depression, a number of familiar corporations were represented: Chrysler, Firestone, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Kohler, Miller High Life, Sears Roebuck, and Wonder Bakery. Let’s look at what our Mystery Jewelry Maker made for sale the Fair.
This remarkably well-preserved choker necklace has a silvertone bow on a red 3/8”- wide watchband-style chain, with a red 1934 Fair medallion in the center. It is 15.5” long. The planetary logo was authorized by the Fair. This specific World’s Fair medallion design is one of several that included the official “A Century of Progress” tagline. I have seen these in square and rectangular iterations as well.
There is a little secret about the bow, which you may not recognize at first glance; I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t, and I’ve been looking at this jewelry for years! The bow on this necklace, which has a plain matte-finished ‘back’ section and a plain polished ‘front’, is the “blank” version of the MJM’s nubbly, tailored, and nouveau bows. The differences were only in the surface stamping. The size, shape, everything about all of those bows – and the chevron shape which was a half-bow – is identical, and all examples of this bow are theirs. To my knowledge, no other jewelry manufacturer has ever used this particular bow casting. The plain ‘blank’ certainly does impart a classic Art Deco look to the necklace!
This rather poor photo from an old eBay listing isn’t much help, but at least the seller provided some sort of description. Here the mesh chain was described as silvertone although I would not have guessed from the picture. Part of the bow is painted red, and the Century of Progress medallion in the center is (according to the description) yellow. The photo appears to show a slight difference in color between the very outside edge of the chain versus the rest of it, which makes me wonder if the chain might be painted. It is really difficult to tell from this photo!
The third example I found of MJM/World’s Fair jewelry is this lovely necklace-and-bracelet set. Many thanks to the helpful reader who sent these great photos! Both are made using three tubular chains, in three shades of blue: gray-blue, medium blue, and dark blue. The necklace is 15” long and the bracelet is 7” long.
The medallion is the same as we see on the other two flat-mesh necklaces.
The closure on this necklace is, unfortunately, very impractical. I know this because I have the same (non-World’s-Fair) necklace made in shades of brown. The ‘clasp’ is simply a silvertone hook on each end, plus a completely separate flat silvertone ring with which to connect them. The ring is not soldered to either of the hooks, which means it’s prone to getting lost or simply coming undone. I’ve honestly never seen any other hook-and-ring clasp where the ring was not permanently attached to one end of the necklace. What in the world were they thinking?!?? All of their other clasp styles are perfectly fine; it was only their tubular-chain designs that received this type.
This handwritten note was stored along with the set:
This note increases the probability that the MJM had obtained a license from the Fair Committee to produce merchandise that would be sold within the actual Fair itself. Without meaning to be sexist, let’s face it: A male business executive was hardly likely to be walking around downtown Chicago shops looking for souvenir jewelry relating to a World’s Fair that he had traveled there specifically to attend. He would have purchased such items on-site for his family, friends, and employees (especially a valued secretary or accounting clerk) while actually at the Fair. During the 1930s, shopping was not exactly a trendy male sport. 😉 [Leaving aside the occasional last-minute “ooops, I forgot..” airport-terminal-shop purchases, of course.]
I have not come across any identifiable MJM jewelry bearing the 1933 Fair logo (which was the same as the one they used in 1934, except for the year.) It may be that, after seeing the commercial success of the first year, they decided to jump on the bandwagon and be part of season two in 1934.
Another interesting fact is that most of the souvenir bracelets both years were the ‘cuff’ style, rather than any kind of chain. But I have only found a single example of a cuff bracelet by the MJM, which is this one:
The only reason we know it was theirs is because of the Tailored Bow on the front. It is not the same type as the typical World’s Fair souvenir cuff bracelet, because the MJM one is hinged in the back whereas the souvenir ones were not hinged at all; they simply had an opening, or were full-circle bangles.
I do wonder whether the MJM made a matching bracelet for the flat-mesh chokers (first two examples), though, as they did for the tubular-mesh one!
If anyone happens to have other examples of 1933 or 1934 World’s Fair jewelry by the Mystery Jewelry Maker, or these same styles in a different colorway, I’d love the opportunity to add a photo here. There is a contact form on the About the Chatsworth Lady page.