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Whirligig Christmas

Antique Candle-Powered Chimes




Gallery Page three

“Swedish Pattern” and Other Post-World war II Angel Chimes

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"Swedish-Pattern" Angel Chimes

Before World War II, most candle chimes were made in Germany of lithographed and/or polished tin, exhibiting — like other tin toys of the period — a wealth of pictorial and/or embossed detail, and many moving parts. World War II killed both the export and German domestic markets for candle chimes and other tin toys for the duration, and for a significant period thereafter. At the same time, it is likely that the Adrian & Stock design patents, originally established in 1905, had by this time expired. Whatever the specific impetus, it is clear that Swedish and other northern European makers arose to meet a continuing post-war demand for candle chimes, which Germany, at least initially, could not fulfill. These later makers took the opportunity to impose their own aesthetic. Post-War chimes involved somewhat fewer pieces than their Pre-War cousins, were simpler in outline and detail, and were generally stamped from unadorned flat brass, rather than embossed lithographed tin.

In the postwar years, aggressive marketing of simple, well-designed and carefully-engineered “Swedish pattern” candle chimes through Sears (an example from the 1958 Sears "Wish Book" is shown at right) and other American outlets led to a significant rise in popularity of these toys, despite the simultaneous explosive increase in the sales of electric Christmas lighting. Despite the claim to derive from “a beautiful old Swedish original,” almost every important feature of these modern Swedish pattern angel chimes derives from German models — particularly those of Adrian & Stock — of the early 20th century.

The family resemblance is striking, particularly in the “floating angels” with their bell-clappers, and distinctive pompadour hairdos. Below is a sequence of images showing how the Adrian & Stock "Engelsgeläut" evolved into the modern "Angel Chime." From left to right, 1) Adrian & Stock "Engel-Weihnachts-Geläut of 1905; 2) Adrian & Stock "Engelsgeläut" from the 1920s; 3) Swedish-made “Änglaspelet” from the 1940s; Swedish-made "Angel Chime" marketed by US firms in the 1950s and 1960s.



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“Änglaspelet” (Angel Carillon)
(34.5. x 13.5 cm., base = 13 cm. dia.)

This very early post-WWII Swedish “Änglaspelet” forms an interesting link between the Stock designs of the early 20th century and today’s Swedish pattern angel chimes. The box includes directions for assembly in both English and Swedish. Although the plain baseClick for bigger picture. design and die-cut angels, as well as the exclusive use of brass, mark it as a Swedish-derived product, most of the key design elements — the spiral “spring” support, the central star, the shape of the bell supports, the tiny stars atop the chimes — are obviously adapted from pre-war Adrian & Stock designs: compare this post-war chime, element by element,  with a “No. 3” Adrian & Stock chime from the 1930s.

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Holt Howard “Angel-abra”
(33 x 14.5 cm., base = 11.5 cm. dia.)

Another early transitional design, similar to the modern Swedish pattern in most respects. Holt Howard Associates were based in New York City, but it is not clear whether this chime was produced in the U.S., or imported from overseas. The instructions include a charming (but highly unlikely) story on the origins of the “Angel-abra” chime.


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Sudhouse “Weihnachts Glockenspiel”
(Christmas Carillon)
(33 x 13.5 cm., base = 11 cm. dia.)

Elements of the very popular post-war Swedish chimes were sometimes copied (or perhaps “repatriated” is a better word) by German manufacturers. Dating to the 1950s, this “Weihnachts Glockenspiel” by the West German firm of Sudhouse has a unique patented base with a trio of chime-bearing angels, but its superstructure of “floating” cherubs is identical to contemporary Swedish models.   

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Dansk-Svensk Metalkunst “Engle Spil” (Angel Bells)

An interesting variant of the preceding chime, featuring a more-or-less direct imitation of Sudhouse's distinctive trio of chime-bearing angels, but with a unique superstructure of rather bizarre cherubs, and a six-pointed star as a topper. The box indicates that the "Engle Spil" was made in Denmark for export to English speaking countries.  

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“Jingle Abra”
(32 x 17 cm., base = 13 cm. dia.)

This imported “Jingle Abra” is by far the most elaborate post-war Swedish pattern chime this collector has seen. Lithographed red stars, a small herd of reindeer, and a flanking pair of trumpeting angels harkens back to the complicated Adrian & Stock designs of the 1930s, a refreshing departure from the relatively austere designs of the post-war era.





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"Änglaspelet med Betlehemstjärnen"
(Angel Bell with Bethlehem Star)

"Baby Klockspel"
Shown with their boxes, here are two early post-WWII variants of a "Swedish-pattern" chime, one full size, and one in miniature. the smaller version requiring birthday candles instead of the standard 4-inch variety.





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Avebe “Angel Chimes”

(30 x 13.5 cm., base = 12 cm. dia.)

Avebe “Giant Angel Chimes”
(43 x 20 cm., base = 18 cm. dia.)

“Christmas Tree” chimes
(27 x 14 cm., base = 12.5 cm. dia.)

Shown are some sets of typical angel chimes in this pattern dating from the 1960s and 1970s. In addition to the standard angel chime (left), this particular manufacturer (Avebe of Sweden) also offered a “giant” angel chimes (below left), as well as a design variant which featured a Christmas tree as a base, and a star topper (below right).  


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Avebe “Angel-Party Chimes”
(30 x 13.5 cm., base = 12 cm. dia.)

“Angel Chimes” with music box
(33 x 14 cm., base = 4 cm. high x 9.5 cm. dia.)

Some sets of Swedish-pattern chimes also came packaged with an additional suite of figures — horses and clowns, instead of angels — which allowed the chimes to be used as a party or birthday centerpiece. Music boxes were added to the base of some models; the one shown below plays “Happy Birthday to You,” but a variant which plays “Silent Night” has also been noted. For some reason it is rare to find any of the music-box chimes in their original packaging.

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Dan-Dee Imports “Angel Chimes with Spinning Candles”
(27 x 14 cm., base = 12 cm. dia.)

These days many “Swedish pattern” angel chimes are made in China or Japan, producing some strange and interesting variants on the basic design. This one, a personal favorite, features candle-holders attached to theClick for bigger picture. impeller, so that the candles spin along with the angels. I haven’t been able to make it work, and I’m not convinced that the laws of physics will allow it: like trying to power a sailboat with an onboard electric fan ...






Other Post-World War II Chimes

Although the "Angel Chime" is barely a century old, the basic design originated by Adrian & Stock in Germany and revised by makers in Sweden and elsewhere now seems almost universal, and to have been around forever. But that's not quite true.

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"Heli" Chimes

Aside from modern "Swedish Pattern" chimes and the earlier line of chimes produced by Adrian & Stock, the most common category of chimes found on eBay these days are "Heli" chimes.  The bases of these angel chimes are often marked “Heli,” which is presumably a company name, although I have not been able to discover any details about the firm. These chimes may have originated as early as the 1920s or 1930s, but they were produced in quantity at least through the 1950s, and in some cases into the 1970s. The manufacturer may have been located in the eastern part of Germany, perhaps in or near the Thuringian glass-blowing center of Lauscha, since many of the Heli chimes incorporate the hand-blown Christmas ornaments for which Lauscha was (and is) famous. After the partition of Germany following WWII the firm apparently survived and continued to thrive under East German communist rule, although it is interesting to note that the later chimes tend to feature generic seasonal figures like trees, stars and bells, in preference to angels, Nativity scenes or other religious symbols.

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Heli “Christbaumwunder” (Christmastree-Miracle) (28 x 14 cm.)

Among the more elaborate "Heli" chimes, the name comes from an illustrated advertising leaflet (see above) found in some original boxes from this manufacturer. Blown-glass Lauscha ornaments are the primary decorative feature. The angel on the example illustrated at left has spun-glass wings; the impeller carries the bell-clappers. The glass spindle is a brilliant idea: metal spindles tend to lose their sharp tips after a while, causing the chime to slow down or stop workingClick for bigger picture. entirely. The chimes in this series tend still to work almost perfectly. Also shown (right) is a version of this chime intended to double as a tree-topper. 





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Heli “Advents- und Weihnachts-Glockenspiel"
(Advent and Christmas Chimes)
(29 x 13.5 cm., base = 14 cm. dia.)

Heli “Christmas Chimes”
(29 x 13.5 cm., base = 14 cm. dia.)

At left is another example of the same "Heli" series, with its box at far left below. The beaded dangles add extra movement and sparkle to the impeller as it turns. The second and third pictures below show a simpler, and perhaps later version of the “Advents- und Weihnachts-Glockenspiel," this one apparently designed for either the American or English market as "Christmas Chimes." The Christmas-tree base proved popular and long-lasting. 

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Heli “Glockenspiel/Christmas Chimes”
(29 x 13.5 cm., base = 14 cm. dia.)

A relatively modern German chime with Christmas tree base and an angel topper reminiscent of Swedish designs. There is no maker’s mark, but the distinctive Christmas tree base marks this chime as a descendant of the “Heli” products discussed above. I have seen this and similar designs described by German collectors as “DDR-Engelsgeläut,” or East German angel chimes.  









Chiming odds and ends

Although the vast majority of candle chimes on the market in recent decades are of the "Swedish Pattern" variety there are interesting and notable exceptions, and a few of these are presented below. 

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“Country Church Chime”
(37 cm. high x 21 cm. long x 13.5 cm wide)

 This "Country Church" chime dates from sometime in the 50s or 60s, but its painted tin construction is an interesting throwback to earlier pre-WWII chimes. The design is ambitious, but not very well engineered, and the configuration of the moving parts is awkward. 


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“Disneyland Happy Birthday Carousel”
(23 x 12.5 cm., base = 10 cm. dia.)

Not properly a Christmas item at all, but charming nonetheless. This chime was produced in Japan for the Disney company sometime in the 1950s. Unlike most chimes, it takes miniature birthday candles instead of the standard 4-inch Christmas candles.   


Candle-chimes continue to be manufactured today: despite increasing competition from other, flashier, noisier Christmas decorations, and in gentle defiance of modern fire safety concerns, after more than a hundred years,

"The Candles burn, the angels turn"

For More Pictures and Information, Visit:


Introduction & History


Gallery Page One

Adrian & Stock and the Origins of the "Angel Chime"


Gallery Page Two

Other Pre-WWII Chimes


Gallery Page Three

"Swedish Pattern" and Other Post-WWII Angel Chimes



Please note: the chimes illustrated on this site are from the author's personal collection, and they are not for sale. For those wanting to buy
particular chimes illustrated here, eBay is the best source. The author welcomes comments, additions and corrections, particularly information on manufacturers and variant models, as well as advertisements and entries
in contemporary catalogs.

Eric Holzenberg