Did you know that the same man designed both Tavern candles and Gurley candles?
That man was Franklin Gurley. Gurley Novelty started out in Buffalo, New York in the 1939 as part of Franklin Gurley’s W&F Manufacturing Co. Inc. At first the Gurley line was commissioned by the Socony-Vacuum Oil Company (now ExxonMobil) as a way to reuse excess paraffin produced as a by-product of the oil refinery process. Gurley’s first products were marketed under the name Tavern. The product line consisted of wax lips and teeth, as well as a limited number of small candle figures in holiday shapes such as ghosts, pilgrims, and Santa Claus. By the late 1940s the company’s business was almost exclusively novelty candles. In 1949 Franklin Gurley bought the rights to the Tavern brand, and changed the name to the Gurley Novelty Co.
Most candles were manufactured for specific holiday themes. Though each candle came with a wick, they were not marketed as practical candles. Rather, most were purchased as small wax figures for holiday display.Smaller candles were sold individually out of shallow cardboard boxes. Sets, and larger candles were sold in sealed paper boxes. Beginning in the 1960s the two and three-candle sets, and larger candles, were generally sold shrink-wrapped in cellophane. Most candles had a round paper Gurley label attached to the bottom. Tavern and Gurley candles were primarily sold at dime stores such as Ben Franklin’s and Woolworth’s, though they could also be found at larger stores such as Macy’s. Sales continued to rise throughout the 1950s and peaked in the late 1960s. By the late 1970s the company was in decline. Several years ago the Gurley candle molds were purchased by the Vermont Country Store, which has begun reproducing them.
Martha Stewart recommends cleaning these candles by wrapping a piece of panty hose around your finger and gently buffing in a circular motion. Be careful not to press too hard or the color may come off the wax. (Practice by cleaning a small area on the back.) For hard-to-reach crevices, use a cotton swab dipped in soapy water.