The Gurley Novelty Company of Buffalo, NY started as the W & F Manufacturing Company. Created in 1927 by Franklin Gurley, the W & F Manufacturing Company was a confectionery company that produced all kinds of candies, chocolates, and wax novelties. In 1939, Mr. Gurley was approached by the Socony-Vacuum Oil Company, now known as ExxonMobil, to create a line of decorative novelty candles to help use up the excess paraffin wax that is created as a by-product from refining oil. The candles were made in Mr. Gurley’s manufacturing plant in Buffalo and sold under the name Tavern Novelty Candles. It was not until 1949 that the company was renamed The Gurley Novelty Company. The new line of wax decorations was quite successful, and by the late 1940s, a vast majority of Gurley’s profits were a result of his novelty candles.
The Buffalo History Museum has several holiday Gurley candles in our collection. They are in excellent condition because they were never lit. These pop culture pieces from the 1950s and 1960s were rarely purchased as practical candles. Instead, consumers saved them and used them to decorate their homes during the holidays. As a result, Gurley Novelty candles are popular collectibles as so many remain intact. The most sought after are the Halloween and Christmas themed pieces, while Thanksgiving turkeys and pink Easter rabbits also remain popular with collectors.