Shirley Temple’s Mesh Bag


1935 Film Starring Shirley Temple, John Boles and Rochelle Hudson

Animal crackers in my soup 
Monkeys and rabbits loop the loop 
Gosh oh gee but I have fun
Swallowing animals one by one

Singing her adorable rendition of “Animal Crackers in My Soup” Shirley Temple (later Shirley Temple Black) charmed Depression-era audiences with her unrelenting cheerfulness in 20th Century Fox’s movie, “Curly Top”. For the ticket price of 24 cents the struggling moviegoer could bask in Shirley’s unbridled optimism and for 74 minutes forget about his or her troubles.

Shirley’s career began in 1932 at the age of three when Educational Pictures chose her for a role in a short film. In 1933 the company declared bankruptcy and in February 1934 Shirley signed a contract with Fox Film Corporation. Fox Films merged with Twentieth Century Pictures to become 20th Century Fox in 1934. That same year Shirley starred in 12 films, including “Stand Up and Cheer”, which was her breakout performance. Shirley’s salary was raised to $1,250 per week (equivalent to over $22,000 in 2014) and her mother received $150 a week to serve as her acting coach and hairdresser.


Shirley’s mother and movie hairdresser, Gertrude, styled her hair in exactly 56 pin curls ala Mary Pickford, for every film. Perhaps not coincidentally, Shirley starred in four films that were remakes of Pickford films, including “Curly Top”.

Shirley’s performances in “Little Miss Marker” and “Baby Take a Bow” were well received, but after she played an orphan girl in the film “Bright Eyes” she was propelled into the lofty realm of international stardom. Her impact on the film industry was so great that when Gary Cooper met Shirley on the set of their 1934 film “Now and Forever” he asked for her autograph!


Shirley with Gary Cooper and Carole Lombard in “Now and Forever”, 1934

Her early successes were followed by a growing wave of recognition for Shirley’s talent and film presence. She was presented with the first ever Juvenile Academy Award in February 1935 and was invited to add her foot-and-hand prints to the concrete in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.


“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.” – Shirley Temple (April 23, 1928 – February 10, 2014)
An employee of Grauman’s Chinese Theater preserved the “practice” cement slab on which Shirley familiarized herself with the process of writing in wet cement. Other stars also utilized this practice process. Joan Crawford’s practice slab was sold in her estate auction. Shirley’s slab was sold in an auction on 12/17/2010 for $9,440, including the 18% buyer’s fee.

In a Motion Picture Herald poll she was named the number one box-office draw from 1935 through 1938, outshining such highly regarded grown-up stars as Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, and Bing Crosby.

Shirley Temple in her “Curly Top” dress posing with Will Rogers.

It was in this heady atmosphere that “Curly Top” opened in 1935 and became one of the year’s most popular films as reported in Variety. Shirley played the role of Elizabeth Bair, also known as Curly, the spunky little orphan girl whose mischievous ways often landed her in trouble. Curly’s pets in the film were a pony and a duck that accompanied her when she left the orphanage to live with her foster father at his beach house in the Hamptons.

Elizabeth (aka Curly): Oh, my duck does a wonderful trick. My duck can lay an egg.
Mrs. Higgins: And just what is so wonderful about that?
Elizabeth (aka Curly): Well, can you lay an egg? (pause)… Oh, excuse me.

Starting in the 1930’s and continuing through the present day, literally thousands of Shirley Temple collectibles have been produced. The list includes such diverse products as soap, clothes, books, mirrors, jewelry, sheet music, and figurines. Cobalt blue mugs, pitchers and cereal bowls with Shirley’s smiling face were given away as premiums with Wheaties cereal.


Hazel Atlas Glass Company and U.S. Glass Company made millions of Shirley Temple cobalt blue glass dishes from 1934 to 1942. Wheaties and Bisquick gave them away as premiums – buy one box of Bisquick to get a mug; buy two boxes of Wheaties to get a pitcher.

She also promoted products from companies such as Quaker Puffed Wheat, General Electric, and Packard Automobiles. Perhaps the best known of the licensed products were the dolls produced by the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company of New York. In the 1930s and into the 1940s every little girl wanted one, and many of them got their wish. The series of look-alike dolls and must-have costumes accounted for over $45 million in sales by 1941.


In 1935 Shirley Temple composition dolls made by Ideal Novelty & Toy Company were sold through the Sears-Roebuck catalog in sizes from 13” to 20” tall for prices from $2.89 up to $5.79 each.

Shirley’s income from endorsements and royalties on licensed products was over $100,000 in 1935, nearly doubling her income from films, and in 1936 it exceeded $200,000.

Always keen to capitalize on popular trends and the endorsement of stars of stage and screen, Whiting & Davis engaged Shirley to promote a child’s mesh purse. The inventive minds at W&D seized on the iconic image of Curly’s pet duck and the dress with appliqued figures of two ducks on the front and on the sleeves popularized in “Curly Top”. The purses were made from Ivorytone mesh (see the article “The Mysteries of Mesh” for more information on Ivorytone mesh) in bright red, light blue, dark blue, and white with a matching painted frame and a twisted-link chain handle. The two ducks were painted in white on the red and dark blue backgrounds, in yellow on the light blue background and in light green on the white background. An ad for the purse, touting it as “Shirley Temple’s bag”, appeared in the 1936-37 Sears-Roebuck Fall and Winter catalog. The purse was offered for $1.00, and it came with a small mirror with Shirley’s picture on the back.



Collectors today are lucky to find an example of Shirley Temple’s bag. Many were undoubtedly subjected to the whims and capriciousness of their little owners and relatively few bags survived. However, if you are fortunate enough to find one you might find that your own troubles can be set aside by holding it in your hand, closing your eyes, and imagining precocious Curly singing to the children at the Lakeside Orphanage…

In every bowl of soup I see
Lions and tigers watching me 
I make ‘em jump right through a hoop
Those animal crackers in my soup


Shirley Temple sings “Animal Crackers in My Soup” in “Curly Top.”
The authors would like to acknowledge Scott Henry for his contribution of the Sears catalog page images.

Something Old is New Again: Whiting & Davis Lives On!

For those collectors who thought the Whiting & Davis Company was gone forever (or alive in name only with manufacturing done overseas) you will be glad to know that it has been reborn in the company’s original image. The company that started in 1876 as a jewelry manufacturer has come full circle in its 135th anniversary year, 2011.

We recently had the pleasure of visiting the Whiting and Davis factory in Massachusetts and speaking with the new president, Darrin Cutler, and his marketing and sales manager, Lelia Teixeira. Darrin acquired Whiting & Davis in 2010 and has turned the company toward its jewelry manufacturing roots by launching two new lines of exclusive jewelry. The new designs are reminiscent of those so sought after by both fashionable women in years past and today’s collectors.

Sunset Necklace – Four-color mesh necklace in Whiting & Davis vermeil. How stunning this necklace would be if worn while carrying your vintage sunset mesh purse.

Mesh purse collectors will be particularly delighted to find that the 2011 anniversary collection offers necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and rings made from metal mesh to compliment their vintage or contemporary mesh purses. Collectors of vintage W&D purses will instantly recognize some of the new mesh products that were originally introduced in the 1920’s such as “Sunset Mesh” and “Rigid Mesh”.

The Whiting and Davis Cuff – Made of sterling ring mesh. Vintage purse collectors refer to this as “rigid mesh”. Classic!

And, if you liked the idea of the iconic W&D flat mesh snake bracelets, but thought the vintage bracelets were a little too realistic looking, you will love the stylized and updated 2011 version with a topaz or tourmaline stone in place of the toothy snake’s head. Click on the link below to view the new W&D jewelry collections.

Silver Lace Necklace – 18” sterling silver necklace inspired by crocheted lace.

In the production room of the W&D factory, machines that produced mesh for those beautiful vintage Whiting & Davis mesh purses in your collection are busily at work today fashioning mesh for luxury brands and individual high-fashion designers. Now those machines are also producing mesh for the new W&D jewelry.

18K Anniversary Mesh Bracelet – features the famous Whiting & Davis trademark on the clasp.

At this time Darrin and Lelia are focusing on launching the firm’s anniversary jewelry collection. However, Darrin has been studying his treasure trove of original Whiting & Davis patterns, dies, and molds with plans to re-introduce additional updated retro designs in the future. If you have a favorite W&D jewelry design of the past that you would like to see reincarnated in high quality American made mesh let us know and we will pass your suggestion along to our friends at the new, reborn Whiting & Davis.