DECEMBER 1, 2006
Monterey's Christmas Angels
Monterey's six-foot tall Christmas angels are now aloft, decorating lampposts and City buildings around town - including the Library. The angels were originally commissioned in 1956 by the City of Monterey to brighten up the downtown area during the festive season. The artist, Erica Franke, worked under the direction of a committee of downtown merchants, earning a commission of $12 per angel.
The angels were immediately controversial. Many people didn't like their dark complexions and dour expressions. Franke defended the angels, which she said were inspired by Spanish representations of angels in early California.
In the years immediately following the unveiling of the angels, the annual controversy resulted in a series of changes. A bit of color was added here and there to brighten the angels, and in 1959 tinsel and pieces of shiny aluminum were added to give them a shimmering effect.
Over the years, the angels became faded and battered, and in 1971, the City disposed of most of them. The few that were still in fair condition were auctioned off, fetching prices between $75 - $100.
In 1972, Erica Franke (Haba) was commissioned to create 40 new angels. The new angels were similar in size and design, but the colors were lighter and brighter. When they were unveiled in 1973, they provoked criticism from those who had grown to love the original angels!
Whether you like them or dislike them, the Monterey Christmas angels are a Monterey institution. Drop by the Library during the month of December and check out the lobby display about the history of the angels, complete with news clippings