Collecting 1950’s: Vintage Compact Address Book


Retro Dee writes about music, fashion and other trends of the 1950s on this site.  Check out her blog, Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever here, and her column here every week.

Hey y’all, it’s time for another edition of Collecting 1950’s. In this section I like to incorporate some history into the the little, seemingly obscure things that I collect.

Today we’re gonna talk about compacts, and I know you love that! But the compact I’m going to show you today is not a makeup compact, no. It’s an address book!

That’s right! While on eBay a few months ago, I discovered this pocket sized address book. It’s about 2″ x 2.5″ made out of gold toned metal. It’s one of those ones where you slide it to the letter you want and you press the button and it pops up on that letter.

I knew about these, but I didn’t know they went back that far! This one has a 1955 calendar in it. 1955! Most of the gold-toned compacts (such as the ones that hold photos) are from the 60’s, so I was shocked to find one this old.

1955 pop-up address book compact.

The photo makes it look HUGE! But rest assured, it’s tiny, so you could carry it in your pocket or purse. I just love the quality and detail.

Let’s have a look at the inside…

Isn’t that cool? Only minor wear and slightly yellow pages, not bad at all for being almost 70 years old! Note the “In Case of Accident”. Later, we’d usually see “In Case of Emergency“. I found that interesting.

Wow look at that! The calendar for January, 1955. The 1st was a Saturday, just like in 2022. (And I’ll bet that’s all 1955 has in common with 2022. Ha!) Okay, to give you some perspective on how long ago that was, Elvis Presley turned 20 years old on the 8th, and was still not a worldwide superstar. On January 6, just 2 days before Elvis turned 20, he performed in Lubbock, TX. In the audience was 18-year-old Buddy Holly, who became inspired by Elvis to incorporate a Rockabilly style into his music. And that, in part, is how Rock N Roll began!

As a collector, I take pride in owning a every day items that were used during that time period. You might wonder why I don’t just collect Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly memorabilia. Well, it’s just a little too obvious for me. I’d actually rather have this compact than a poster advertising Elvis’s Jan. 6, 1955 show in Lubbock. Ordinary items (vs. actual memorabilia pertaining to an event) give me a better sense of what it was like to actually live in the 1950’s. Anyone can buy the albums, purchase the posters (reprints or if you’re lucky, the originals) but to me carrying an every day item, the same as one of the gals in the audience might’ve had in her purse, gives me a sense of stepping back in time. Plus it’s really cute, right?

Hey Nineteen! This photo shows the page for September, 1955. Nine months almost to the day after he saw Elvis perform, Buddy Holly turned 19 on September 7th, 1955. By then he had graduated from Lubbock Senior High, and was becoming a local celebrity, well on his way to the international stardom he would reach in the next two years.

So how common are these little address books? Can you just pop onto eBay and buy one? The answer is simply, yes. They aren’t too hard to find, and fortunately that makes them affordable as well. I was, however, surprised to find one with its original box, imagine that!

I tried to purchase the one I found with the box, but it had already been sold! That’s okay. The good news is that I got to see the original box. And you get to see the box too!

Petite Pocket Index with original box

As you can see, this item is called “A Petite Pocket Index” and its by “Petite American” Fashioned Personals. Wow.

Back of box

The text on the back of the box reads: “It works! It’s a functional index; useful for keeping names, addresses and phone numbers handy. Ruled and alphabetically arranged pages to the file letter of your choice from a gold plated, wafer thin metal jacket. Perfect for purses, pocket and desk.”

Can you stand it?! This must have been so innovative for them. Imagine, SIXTY years before the existence of the i-phone, this item was probably the handiest thing you could possibly keep in your purse or pocket. Then of course, is the side of the box which says:

Side of box slogan

Note the slogan: “For Every Man and Woman“. And yet the 50’s always get knocked for being misogynistic and “too gender specific”, well take that!

Despite the fact that these seem common on the collector’s market, before a couple of months ago, I’d only seen larger versions of them. I recall that this type of address book was featured on a 1953 episode of “Life With Elizabeth” starring Betty White! I saw it on DVD about 10 years ago…

From the DVD cover “Life With Elizabeth” starring Betty White.

In that particular episode, Elizabeth was working as a secretary, fumbling her way through a humorous work day. She was at a desk and the address book popped open. She remarked that there was a spider in it! So she’d just have to file it under “S” for “Spider”. That cracked me up, probably because I have arachnophobia and I usually file my spiders under “S” for “SMUSHED”.

Ha. Ha. Okay, before I close this post, let’s have a look at where I keep my Petite Pocket Index, on display with some other compacts on my dresser…

My dresser. The petite address book is on the right of my ca. 50s Volupte compact.

I have limited space, especially since we moved, so what I display, how and where is important. This little compact is just the right size to sit next to my jewelry boxes and other vintage compacts.

Well, that’s it for this installment of Collecting 1950’s. Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post!

For more, stay tuned and please follow Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever on WordPress. You can also follow Retro Dee on Twitter @RealRetroDee and Instagram @mariepascal82

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