To the Paper Moon and Back

By Darlene Alvarez, Photos Courtesy of Peterson Design

This article originally appeared in the 2020 issue Roaring Twenties: An Encore

With so much to celebrate, we take a look into the romantic backdrops of Southern California-based Paper Moon Shoppe, whose whimsical moons add a touch of magical glamour to every grand party they grace. Find out more in our talk with founder Victoria Smith below!

How did you begin your business? It happened one night when I discovered and fell in love with paper moons from the past. What a spectacle to see, on a penny postcard, couples wearing vintage clothing, perfectly posed with the moon. After discovering a vast collection of these postcards, I remember asking myself “What influenced this photo booth trend?” I began to research deeper into this historical phenomenon and realized, not only was this a novelty experience at fairs during the late 1800s-1950s (peaking in popularity around 1910), but even today there is a society of vintage enthusiasts who are still creating paper moons for Jazz Age lawn parties and weddings. Fascinated with all of this, I eventually asked my husband if he could build a moon to set up in our bay window as a sitting area. He wasn’t fully convinced of my “practical idea”, but finally with an endearing little grin, decided to take my sketch and build our very first paper moon. After seeing it finished, I knew I wanted to create and ship paper moons to people around the world who dreamed of owning one of their own. The endeavor to make this happen was not an easy task, as it took us almost two months (and nearly giving up) before the design was ready to be sold worldwide. In 2013 we became known as “moon

makers”, selling our designs on Etsy under the company name DAPPSY; our first moon being named after it. DAPPSY was just a made up word for dapper and daisy. We sold over 370 moons, labeling each one in order of creation with our name and its number on a metal plaque, before moving fully into the photo booth rental industry. In the transition period of selling and renting moons, our name was changed to Paper Moon Shoppe. The word “shoppe” being a reminder of where we started as a company.

What are some of the big events that you’ve been a part of? We have been a part of so many incredible happenings, mostly weddings and private celebrity parties, but I want to mention a few events that are near and dear to our hearts. In 2017, we were a part of an exhibit at Lyman Allyn Art Museum in Connecticut headlined: It’s Only a Paper Moon: Souvenir Photography in America, 1870-1950. It drew from art-history Professor Christopher Steiner’s tremendous private collection of vernacular souvenir postcards. The exhibit featured our paper moon and cloud backdrop, as well as a collection of over 400 pieces of memorabilia. We loved being a part of Glamour Days this year at Wolf Creek Brewery in Santa Clarita. The founders, Amber Schwinn and Stephanie Stuart, created a full day of entertainment inside Peter Goosen’s Spiegeltent celebrating an amazing time in history. This vintage celebration immersed us into a timeless realm of nostalgia as attendees stopped in to pose with our Rockefeller “blinking” paper moon and our most spectacular cloud backdrop named Moonlight Serenade. We were so incredibly proud to be a part of both these events.

​What’s your most popular/requested moon? The Fitzgerald Paper Moon is our most requested design and so popular because of its charming and light-hearted expression. We named it after the critically acclaimed novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald; but I think perhaps people associate its name more with Ella Fitzgerald who famously sang “It’s Only a Paper Moon.” Nevertheless, we are so thrilled to know it is liked by so many individuals.

How do you make your moons? We have the largest paper moon collection in the world with over 30 marvelous designs. My husband constructs the moons out of wood, and I design and paint them. We get asked all the time if they are made out of paper! At each event venue, we are known to meticulously transform spaces into a spectacular celestial showpiece, setting up large-scaled paper moons, night skies, and clouds that look as though you were sitting right among the stars.

Why do you think the paper moon is such an endearing symbol? Prior to the first moon landing in 1969, the moon was an aura of mystery and fueled the imagination of those who dreamed of flying to it. Some of those intrigued, used their artistic talent to create paper moons to be an exhilarating way for people to experience the moon and have a souvenir postcard as proof of their “trip.” I believe paper moons would not be as endearing today without the help of artistic and brilliant minds in history whose imagination influenced other generations: Jules Verne’s 1865 novel “From the Earth to the Moon” was about a rocket ship being shot out of a cannon to the stars; the later editions of his book featured magnificent illustrations for the readers. In 1903, Frederic Thompson and Skip Dundy brought “A Trip to the Moon” attraction to Luna Park on Coney Island which was predated one year by Georges Méliès’ film Le Voyage Dans La Lun (1904), known as the first science fiction film. Collectively, all of these individuals contributed to the symbolic celestial feelings we associate with paper moons.

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