Our favorite part of the holiday season is decorating our homes with all the cute holiday figurines we save year after year. Many of these figurines have been handed down for decades, and bring back cherished memories of past holiday joy.
One of the major producers of holiday figurines throughout the 1950’s and 60’s was the Lefton Company. Their most famous figurine, Little Miss Mistletoe, was a cute little girl with ponytails riding in a candy cane sleigh. Other popular Lefton figurines included elves, angels and candy cane pixies.
The Lefton Company also made a wide variety of different styles of giftware. There are realistic looking animals, colonial figures, dainty flowers, mini vases, and other whimsical items with playful designs. These fine porcelain figures were all molded and hand painted.
The Lefton Company was founded by George Zoltan Lefton, a Hungarian immigrant, in Chicago in 1940. Lefton, who would go on to be known as the “China king”, began his business by selling basic bags of plaster of Paris. He went on to develop innovative practices in the porcelain giftware industry that are still in use today.
In 1941, directly after the bombing at Pearl Harbor, many Japanese owned businesses were being looted throughout the U.S. including in the Chicago area. Lefton helped a Japanese American friend board up his shop and, in exchange for Lefton’s help, his friend introduced him to businessmen he knew in Japan. This lead to Lefton developing relationships with Chinese producers in occupied Japan following World War 2. Lefton established his company and began importing porcelain giftware from Japan. He was one of the first American businessmen to work with Japan after the war.
George Lefton died in 1996 at the age of 90. The company was sold in 2002, after 60 years of production. Collector interest is mainly focused on the earlier Lefton pieces and the lines that have been discontinued; particularly products that were made in occupied Japan. Each piece of Lefton Company giftware is exquisitely detailed and well made.
The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village has a variety of Lefton Company items including pieces produced in occupied Japan. Visit The PAST Antiques on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to see our full selection of antiques and vintage collectibles.