On the Porch

M.I. Hummel figurines are a series of porcelain figurines based on the drawings of Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel, O.S.F. The sketch art of Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel began to appear in the 1930s in Germany and Switzerland. The sketch art was mostly pastoral drawings of children. The German publishing house, Emil Fink Verlag, was involved in the early popularization of the art on postcards. Hummel’s “art cards” became popular throughout Germany, catching the eye of Franz Goebel, a porcelain maker and head of W. Goebel Porzellanfabrik. Goebel acquired the rights to turn Hummel’s drawing into figurines, producing the first line in 1935. By the end of the year, 46 M.I. Hummel motifs were on the market, sold in the United States at Marshall Field & Company in Chicago and other American retailers.

Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel was born Berta Hummel in Massing, Germany on May 21, 1909. A devout Catholic, she chose to follow a religious calling in 1931 at the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Siessen in Bad Saulgau. After completing her novitiate year (the period of training and preparation that a novice or prospective undergoes prior to taking vows), she was assigned to teach art in a nearby school run by the convent. The Sisters were impressed with her art and sent copies to Emil Fink Verlag, a publishing house in Stuttgart which specialized in religious art. The company decided to release copies of the works in postcard form. Soon afterward, Franz Goebel happened to see some of these postcards in a shop in Munich and wanted to acquire the work for his porcelain work. The convent granted him exclusive rights to make figurines based on her art.

After the end of World War II, the popularity of Hummel figurines grew as American soldiers stationed in West Germany began sending the figurines home as gifts. Post war, as travel to Europe became more commonplace, the figurines, with their folkloric appearance, were often purchased as souvenirs and shipped home.

The museum has a Goebel/Hummel nativity set on display now for the holiday season. The nativity set was donated to the historical society by Donald Neisen, in memory of his sister Loretta. Donald bequeathed the nativity set to the historical society in his will in 1999, and the nativity set was given to the historical society after Donald passed away in 2006. Loretta had purchased the nativity set in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1958 and had it shipped to Marshall. The original shipping crate is in the museum’s collection as well.

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