Buildings, Miscellaneous, Monuments, People

History of Souvenir Buildings

In the Spring and Fall – Winter 1995 editions of the Souvenir Building Collector, Dave Forman authored the 2 part “MAGNIFICENT MINIATURES: A History of Souvenir Buildings.”

Photo of Trylon and Perisphere souvenir building
Trylon and Perisphere Miniature Building from 1939 New York World’s Fair

He told how his “first souvenir building was a family heirloom my grandparents bought for fifty cents. It was a gleaming blue and white Trylon and Perisphere they brought back from their visit to the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Sleek and elegant, the metal miniature symbolized a promising vision of the future. Little did I know, when it eventually was passed down to me, the enormous role it would play in my own future.” Dave went on to describe how this initial replica became the foundation of his collection, which in 1995 numbered over 500. “Cathedrals, skyscrapers, monuments, museums, towers, spires and landmarks. They are tacky and elegant, crude and highly detailed, mundane and fantastic.” His “history” covered primarily the history of souvenir buildings in the United States starting with the penny bank replica of Independence Hall sold at the 1876 Centennial Celebration in Philadelphia and ending (remember his article is from 1995) with the observation that “Today building replicas are noticeably absent from the souvenir shops in airports and tourist attractions.” 1876 – Centennial Celebration, Philadelphia 1886 – Statue of Liberty, New York 1893 – World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago 1920’s & 30’s – Many replicas as company favors, commemoratives 1950’s – Tourist items from travel in the USA

The article describes some of the major manufacturers of “magnificent miniatures” as well as some of the interesting miniatures and the forms they come in – thermometers, salt & pepper shakers, cigarette lighters, etc. Click here to purchase copies of Vol 2, No 1 & 2, of Souvenir Building Collector, Journal of the Souvenir Building Collectors Society.

Buildings, Monuments, WHAT IS IT?, WHERE IS IT?


Debuted in Volume 1, No. 1 (1994), of the SBCS Journal, the first publication of the feature “WHAT IS IT??? WHERE IS IT???” resulted in a quick identification. By the next issue of the Journal, 2 collectors’ had identified the pictured nameless monument as the monumental statue of Ferdinand I atop a column surrounded by four Moorish slaves. It stands in the square near the harbor in Livorno (Leghorn), Italy.

Photo of Ferdinand 1 Souvenir monument
The first “What Is It??? What is It??? photo from Vol 1, No. 1 of the SBCS Journal.

In the same article that reported the identification of Ferdinand I, two more buildings were posited for identification: St. Botolph’s Church in Boston, England and a penholder desk set labeled “Addressograph-Multigraph Corp.” Also, at this time, “the mystery gift for a mystery solved” tradition began. It was suggested that the collector looking for information provide a mystery gift to the first person to solve the puzzle.

Carol D. has shared the background on the St. Botolph’s quick identification.  She had a friend who came from Boston, England and Carol had visited her there and had actually climbed the “stump” as the tower is affectionately known.  Her “mystery gift” arrived 6 months later from knowledge seeker, Dave F.. a set of S&P shakers of the Watchtower on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  They are still in her collection.

By the 3rd issue of the SBCS Journal, the identification of little buildings and monuments was well underway. In that issue the desk cigarette smoking set of the Dahlstrom Building was featured. Bill T. tracked down a VP of Dahlstrom Manufacturing Co., Jamestown, NY who confirmed the replica was of the administration/office building, built in 1926.

Dahlstrom Manufacturing  Co Administration Bldg., Jamestown, Ny
Dahlstrom Manufacturing Co Administration Bldg., Jamestown, Ny

Do you have a Souvenir Building or Monument that needs identifying? The members of SBCS are very knowledgeable and are happy to help you identify your building. If it is one that is not readily recognized, such that SBCS cannot quickly respond to your request, it may be a candidate for a “WHAT IS IT??? WHERE IS IT???” post.

Click here to send a request for identification of a building or monument.