The History Behind Department 56



Above photo is the property of an eBay member who currently has a Department 56, Dickens Series, St. Ives Lock House RETIREED up for auction at the following link. Other Department 56 items up for auction by this seller may be viewed at the following: Seller’s other items (permission to use photo granted).

By Patricia L Johnson

Have you ever traveled during the holiday season and come across a tiny town that was all lit up for the holidays? Towns that just seem to pop up out of nowhere; resemble old-fashioned villages and take your breath away with their beauty?

A group of friends were going out for dinner at the inn in town, on an evening when the snow had just fallen, and as they went around the bend, they were delighted to see this tiny old-fashioned town all decorated for the holidays. The newly fallen snow, combined with the glow of the Christmas lights and decorations brought back fond memories for the group and they spent the entire night reminiscing and admiring the beauty before them. The sight had such an impact on the group they wanted to share the experience with others and the concept of a miniature lighted Christmas village was born.

Department 56 was originally a part of Bachman’s, a retail florist located in Minneapolis. Bachman’s identified the various departments within the floral shop with numbers and the number assigned to imports of wholesale gifts was “56”. Department 56 is still headquartered in Eden Prairie, MN and is a leader in giftware, collectibles and decorations. It is best known for their hand-crafted lighted villages and home decorations. It is now a part of the ENESCO family with International headquarters in Itasca, IL.

In 1976 the first set of six hand-painted, ceramic buildings was introduced and called The Original Snow Village®. This set was retired in 1979 in order to accommodate the 12 new introductions and the first village accessories.

In 1984 the Heritage Village Collection® was developed and its first release was The Dickens Village Series® consisting of seven shops and a church.

In 1986 the Heritage Village Collection was expanded by adding The New England Village Series® and The Alpine Village Series®. In addition, the world of Snowbabies™ was also introduced in 1986.

In 1987 the Heritage Village collection expanded once again, with Christmas in the City® and the Little Town of Bethlehem®

By 1988 Department 56 had reached sales of $56 million and was forced to move into a larger 150,000 sq. ft. distribution center.

Every few years thereafter more and more additions were added to the Village collections as you can see from the following listing.

Alpine Village Series®

Christmas In The City® Series
A Christmas Story Series
Classic Ornaments Series
Dickens’ Village Series®
Disney Parks Village Series
Disney Mickey’s Christmas Village Series
General Village Accessories
Grinch© Village Series
Heritage Village Series
Historical Landmark Series™
Holy Land™ Collection and Little Town Of Bethlehem™ Series
Hot Classics™ Collection
Hot Properties™ Collection
Jim Shore Heartwood Creek®
The Original Snow Village® Collection
The Original Snow Village® Halloween
Peanuts© Village Series
New England Village® Series
North Pole Series™
Seasons Bay Series
Story Book Village Series
Williamsburg Village Series
Winters Frost Series

If you are a collector and would like additional data on any Department 56 item, you may be able to locate the information on the Department 56 website, which has a complete listing of each and every Department 56 offering.

© 2014 Patricia L Johnson

Patricia Johnson

Patricia Johnson

Patricia L Johnson is a former special assignment writer/photographer and co-owner of the Articles and Answers News and Information sites.
Patricia Johnson
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