This miniature nativity set is housed inside a hand-carved gourd. It is from Peru
This miniature nativity set is housed inside a hand-carved gourd. It is from Peru

OTTAWA - Visitors to the Putnam County Library in Ottawa have been able to enjoy 17 different nativity sets on display during December in the show windows at the main entrance. The sets come from multiple countries including Mexico, Italy, Peru, Europe and Africa.

The collection was placed their by Bruce Stowe, Ottawa. Most are pieces from his mother, Betty Jean Stowe's, collection.

Bruce said his mother started collecting the nativity scenes in the 1970's.

"Mom and dad traveled a lot in the 1970's and mid-1980's," he said. "She started picking up the sets as they traveled to different countries." Family members including Bruce and his sister also added to her collection.

'She picked up a few African pieces when she visited me when I was in the Peace Corp in the mid-1980's." Bruce said.

Some sets come from the 1950-60's when they were sold in stores such as Kresges, Woolworth's and other five and dime stores.

"They are paper mache and were very popular at the time," Bruce said. "The pieces came in different sizes. If you bought a 6-inch piece you might have paid $.29 at the time. If you bought a 12-inch piece it may have cost you $1.25-$1.50 each."

A miniature nativity on display is inside a hand-carved gourd. Bruce said his dad, James Stowe, brought this back from Peru. Closed the gourd features intricate stained hand-carvings on the outside. Once the gourd you can see the Holy family featured on one side, with a replication of native townspeople on the opposite side.

The most expensive set on display is a hand-carved 17-piece nativity set plus the stable. The carver of the set was the Anri Company in Italy. All of the pieces were designed by Koult. Bruce said each piece has a list price. The cow on display is valued at $300.

"This is a set I bought," said Bruce. He purchased it in the mid-1990's from a 90-year old lady in South Bend, Ind. "She has listed the set on E-bay," he said "I've added one figure to the set.

Bruce said he has this entire set including the stable on sale for $1,500. "I don't have the original stable on exhibit," he said. "It is too large for the showcase."

Bruce said he has more of his mother's set at home. His sibling also have some of her sets.

"Mom would always put them up around the holidays," he said. "But we like to keep them up to enjoy year round."