Original Felttown moves West!

Of the many wonderful things that happened over Christmas 2015, one of the most cherished will be the unveiling of an original Gram McCourt “known” Felttwon that made its way from origin of Bangor, ME to our lovely home in Los Angeles, CA.

It was given with love, respect and history to our children Luke and Lily. I hope many more years of play will grace our home and this piece of Felttwon history!

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Obituary: Nora O’Leary Smith

Nora O’leary is the name on the by line from the original Felt Town article that appeared in the Ladies Home Journal on November, 1951. I am still looking for a photograph of Ms. O’Leary.

Nora O’Leary Smith 1917~2003
On August 19, 2003, Nora O’Leary Smith died after a long, yet graceful battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She was 86-years-old.
Nora was born in Sharon, Massachusetts on June 14, 1917 to Thomas and Anna Dolan O’Leary. With part of the O’Leary farm sold to the Sharon Country Club, Nora grew up with a golf club in hand. In her youth, she became a leader in women’s gold throughout New England. She was also a gifted fashion designer.
In high school she ran her own business in the art studio her father built for her, designing and sewing clothes for several clients. In 1939, Nora graduated from Massachusetts School of Art in Boston and joined the faculty. Nora remembered fondly being the youngest faculty member at the time, Cyrus Dallin was the oldest. With a dream in her heart, Nora moved to New York to launch her career in fashion. She became fashion editor of Ladies Home Journal magazine and stayed for 25 years until moving to Family Circle Magazine for another decade. She traveled the world on magazine assignments and loved her work with a passion. She retired at 73. Nora loved her family with equal passion. She met her stockbroker husband John J. Smith in New York, marrying in 1947. Nora and John raised their family of four in midtown Manhattan and made their children’s education and happiness their top priority.
Nora is survived by her four children: Stephen G. (Sally) Smith and Richard N. (Kathy) Smith of Washington, D.C., Wendy (Chris) Born of Philadelphia and Nancy (Michael) Nebeker of Sandy, Utah and 12 grandchildren. She is preceded in death by her husband and parents.
In her almost eight years in Utah, Nora has been cared for by many loving and compassionate souls. Our love and gratitude goes out to Jennifer, Kevin, Nikki, Luther, and all those at Silverado who made her life so full. To Yolande, Jolene, Mo, Suzanne, Adrianne, Carolee, Lillianne, Betty and all the angels at Caresource Hospice, words cannot express our appreciation adequately.
There is a deep debt of gratitude owed to Dr. Steven Fehlauer who attended Nora until the end with love and great wisdom.
A memorial service will be held to honor Nora’s life Thursday August 28, at the Sandy Granite View Stake Center at 9880 South 3100 East at 6 p.m. Burial services will be held in Little Compton, Rhode Island.

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Original Felt Town surfaces!

I was recently emailed from this blog and to my great surprise and wonderment, a kind soul sent me a photograph of their beloved Felt Town. A traditional FT which has been framed and hung on the wall in there home. Thanks so much for sharing!

The email reads:

Hi Henry:  Here is a photo of the rug my 2 brothers ,1 sister  and I played on as kids.  As I said in the post my mother made it in 51 or 52,  I was born in 52 so I got lots of use out of it.  My wife had it framed so for display.  Kids today would not be so entertained as we were.  Thanks Robert

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What is Felt Town?

Felt Town was the name given to a style of children’s rug play that Marilyn McCourt (aka Gram) discovered while browsing the November 1951 issues of Ladies Home Journal. After reading an article that described a home made felt children’s decorative play rug which would unlock a child’s desire to discover the world of miniature planes, trains, boats, animals and just about anything else, she set to work on her own version.

I came across the concept upon meeting and then marrying one of Gram’s grandchildren who also made a Felt Town in 2007. I became enthralled with the concept of a magical world right there on the floor.

This website is devoted to the understanding, preservation and discovery of all things Felt Town related.

There were four original Felt town’s made (we think) and no one knows how many more exist outside the McCourt circle. Two original Felt Town’s have been documented here, but there is a great hope that more will come.



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Journal Rug Play (original Felt Town article)

I wanted to see if I could track down the original Felt Town article in a Ladies Home Journal back issue based on what little information I had. That it appeared on back page of the issue from (Gram’s interview) and that Anne received one (she thinks) when she was six years old in 1951.

It was not able to search online back dated issues earlier than the 1970’s, so I went to the big main public library in downtown Santa Monica.

I asked the periodicals representative how to search for the information an as it turned out pretty much every issue ever printed is available in bound volumes on the library’s periodical shelves. This seemed both a blessing and a curse. I felt confident that I would indeed find the article, but that it might take looking through hundreds of issues in the search. Luck for me my son Jack was along and eager to help in the search.

I decided to start by using the information I had, just looking at the last few pages of each issue over say a five year period starting in 1950.

After a few issues it was clear that the back page, or close to it, always had a project that was “felt town-esque”, a quilt or some other home made knitting project. This got me excited. A few times I even though, could this be the article? It is not felt town, but perhaps Grams had engineered Felt Town based on just a quilt design. Of course I could not have been more wrong.

1949, nothing
1950, nothing
1951, It was taking time and I had to get back home so this was the last year I was going to go through. It was not looking good adn I figured I would come back and look through every page of every issue I had already gone through and I saw this:

(here is the article in total)

Ladies Home Journal
November, 1951

This felt play rug of a small village inspires a stimulating game for youngsters from two to ten. It is a game that children can play together or by themselves.

Journal Play Rug…

An Enchanting and Lasting Christmas Present

From the tender age of two, cars, airplanes, fire engines and boats are objects of curious, wondering eyes. The association of boats and water, planes with the sky, trains with tracks is just one of the wonderful discoveries of early childhood. The difference between a coal car and a steam shovel, a fire engine and a tractor, is quick noticed, and their individual duties become part of a child’s play. Our Journal play rug has roads, railroad tracks, a river, a lake,an airport and a gas station…all scaled for small toy toys available in dine stores throughout the country. It is an object of constructive play…everyday life. A youngster can live in this little town in his own imaginative way. He can get gas at the station, go to the lake to sail his boat, and to the station to catch strain. It’s fun on rainy days, wonderful for a shut-in because because it can be placed on a bed. Also it is decorative as a wall decoration in a playroom. By Nora O’Leary

This rug has been designed for easy sewing. It measures 36″ by 54″. It is simple appliqué stitch of felt on felt. We have arranged for you to buy all the materials (two layers of green felt for rug and all necessary amounts of other colors used in the decorations) in a complete package for $8.95 from Fun-With-Felt, 215 Middle Neck Road, Great Neck, N.Y. Send for Journal Pattern No. 2584, 25cents which includes chart and instructions for cutting and making. Use coupon on Page 26.

Scaled for dime-store toys,, the rug can be equipped with everything from lamp posts to animals on the farm. Boats, fire engines and planes also have their places.

Here is the article as it appear in color and ready from printing.

Posted in Felt Town in the World, History of Felt Town | 2 Comments

Gram Speaks!

Here is an interview with Gram from December, 2011 discussing the origins of Felt Town. With pin point accuracy Gram recalls the exact location of the original felt town article in Ladies Home Journal

Topics covered include:

  • Most difficult part was the train tracks
  • She made at least four felt towns
  • The derivation of the name felt town is still unknown?
  • They cannot be washed!, but they might have been dry cleaned in Patten, ME at Wally’s Laundromat
  • They are not all the same, but many of the locations are duplicated


Posted in History of Felt Town | 3 Comments