The Line Material Company was founded in Milwaukee, WI by William Kyle, Sr. The business focused on street lighting and electrical hardware (transformers, fuses, breakers, etc.). In 1949 the company became a division of McGraw Electric, which in 1957 combined with one of Thomas Edison’s original companies to become McGraw-Edison.
As early as 1943 (and perhaps earlier) the company began producing Christmas booklets. Presumably these went primarily to customers but perhaps also went to employees. In 1949 the company included a record with the booklet, “Keeping Christmas”, narrated by Jim Ameche (brother of the more famous actor Don Ameche).
Booklets continued each Christmas until once again, in 1956, music and stories became part of the package. This edition was “The Magic of Christmas” and included a 7″ 78rpm record with the titular musical story playing across both sides. There are no credits and the label merely states “Created and released by Line Material. The book is full of poems, short stories, song lyrics, and illustrations.
Listen to the story below. (The audio on my record was very noisy. So my friend Lee over at Music You Won’t (Possibly) Hear Anyplace Else generously allowed me to include his recording. I did some additional restoration to the audio myself).
Click the images below to browse a few of the pages of the booklet and see the quality of the great mid-century modern illustrations.
It seems clear that there must have been a generous budget from the company to produce these. The booklet is fully illustrated, with several pages of full-color images and a glossy cover. The recording is definitely professional and as we’ll see with future recordings, they often used name talent. On top of that would be the costs of distributing these. While some were likely hand delivered, some copies can be found with mailing envelopes intact, indicating that there was a shipping operation as well.
This was an era, of course, where a number of major corporations provided special holiday premiums to their customers. There are well-noted annual Christmas music compilations from places like Firestone and Goodyear tires, Grant’s department store and more. During this economic boom time, there was obviously money available to put toward such high-quality promotional materials. And as you’ll see as I post more of these Line Material offerings, there was just some outstanding work.
It’s time that these little holiday masterpieces got greater attention and recognition. And so I offer you the 1956 Line Material Christmas book and record for your enjoyment!
Click the image below to download a zip file with the complete booklet and music.