Penny & Gentles, Northwood

Tom Mordini introduced this double handgrip plate to the carnival community in 2000. It is one of two pieces known in the pattern; the other is a flat plate. Both are amethyst. The lettering under the name says, "Broadway and Morgan." The exterior is plain, unusual for Northwood advertising pieces. Northwood used their Garden Mums blank for the pieces.

The above example sold at the 2014 Heart of America Carnival Glass Association convention auction for $9,500. Photo courtesy of Seeck Auctions.

The plate above sold at the 2017 Karen Engel auction for $20,000.

Updated 1/13/2018

Comments by Glen and Stephen Thistlewood:

So what's the story behind Penny and Gentles? It was a thriving, large "Dry Goods" department store in St. Lousi, Missouri, selling fabrics, clothing, kitchenware, and even sheet music. A disastrous fire in 1891 that began in the Penny & Gentles store decimated the entire block and adjoining buildings. Contemporary reports indicate that Penny & Gentles suffered a quarter of a million dollar loss of stock and building combined. Nine years later, in 1900, another fire (which also started in Penny & Gentles store) destroyed four blocks and The Advertiser-Courier reported that "nearly two million dollars' worth of St. Louis business property was burned. An eye witness account from a man in the dentist's opposite stated that "the whole front of the Penny & Gentles building on the second floor was blown out" --an explosion was felt to have been the cause.

It's likely that Penny & Gentles felt a need to drive up trade, following their losses (they had insurance, but it didn't fully cover the costs). They had a long tradition of free gifts and unusual promotions to drive sales. One of their 1903 ads began with this novel line: "We don't wish to startle you too much, so will explain" --going on to state that they were giving away a free lady's suit jacket when the customer purchased the matching skirt. "Who but Penny & Gentles would make such an offer?" Customers even got "tickets to Forest Park Highlands Amusement Park with every purchase" completely free, too.

We don't know the date of the rare Northwood Carnival Advertising piece (our understanding is that just two are reported) but would appear to have been part of a sales "push" by the company to regain ground after the two disastrous fires. For a company that gave away free jackets (with purchase of a skirt, free ticket to the Amusement Park and books of 10 labels free to every purchaser of a dozen Mason Jars, the unusual and decorative Carnival Advertising plates were surely part of Penny & Gentles successful marketing strategy.