Around the world in a paper plane: vintage paper cut-outs

Last month, one of the antiquarian bookshops in our neighbourhood had a closing down sale. Every item in the store cost 20 kr. While I am sad to see these kind of shops go, I have to admit that I prefer to buy books online where I can more easily find the specific things I am looking for. No matter how much I like browsing an antiquarian bookshop to come across unexpected finds, I try to keep random book purchases to a minimum, as our bookshelves are already overloaded with all too many unread works.


What I found at the bookshop. The book in the top right corner has some lovely illustrations that are deserving of their own post.

Nevertheless, I could not withstand taking a look when I passed by a couple of weeks ago. Hoping to find vintage pattern magazines in the already half-empty shop, I went through a pile of old journals, newspapers and folders with illustrations. Alas, the pile did not contain anything crafting-related, but I did come across a number of large plastic sleeves containing paper cut-out models. Traces of staples in the center of the spreads, as well as the texts on the prints indicate that these “modellkartonger”  were originally included in Allers Familj-Journal.


This is a model for a window decoration. For some reason it brings back childhood memories of rainy Sunday afternoons and the suffocating boredom that came with them.

The cut-outs are printed on the inside of folded sheets with descriptions and instructions printed on the outside. With a size of 38 x 54cm the unfolded sheets seem quite large. However, they contain so many small parts that the finished models are rather modest in size.


The unfolded sheet showing the components of the window decoration, as well as some instructions.

The next two paper cut-out models are more exciting, as they include moving parts! Some day I will have the sheets copied or scan and print them myself, as I am very curious to see how they come together and whether it’s possible to get them to work. The paper on which the models are printed is rather thick but has become a bit brittle, so I am afraid to handle the sheets too much, which is one of the reasons I decided to photograph them and put them up on the blog.


A mountain railroad with moving train. The outside of the box is very pretty as well.

Paper06I have no idea how rare these models are. The magazine they came with was widely circulated, but then again, not that many people may have held on to them. Moreover, the models were obviously meant to be played with. Once cut out and glued together, they may not have lasted very long. On an auction site I found some good photographs of what the finished models look like. When placed together the models could even form a whole town. It’s quite remarkable that someone preserved these finished models for so long! Besides buildings, other, more advanced and technical constructions existed, such as this column surmounted by a globe with rotating airplanes that are powered by hot air.


Around the world in an airplane. This construction is supposed to be placed on a radiator or stove, so the planes will be moved by the warm air flow.


To the left a model of the Spirit of St Louis, Charles Lindbergh’s airplane. To the right a red airplane sporting the name of the magazine that contained the cut-outs.

Unfortunately, none of the paper cut-outs contains a date, but my first guess was that they are from the 1930’s. The last sheet, however, provides a clue as to its age. One of the airplanes is a model of the Spirit of St Louis, the plane with which Charles Lindbergh undertook the first non-stop flight from New York to Paris in 1927. It is, thus, likely that this model sheet was created not too long after this event when it was still fresh in everybody’s memory.

The pile of magazines at the bookshop included seven or eight model sheets of which I picked the three that were in best condition. Now, of course, I regret not buying the others too. Unfortunately, the shop is closed for good, but I will keep an eye out for them in the future.

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