Garden Gnomes – The History of America’s Favorite Lawn Ornament


The garden gnome, which is also called a lawn gnome, is a small, human-like figurine. They are believed to date back as far as Romans, as some scholars believe that it depicts the Greco-Roman god Priapus, a god of fertility. The garden gnome is most always depicted wearing a pointy hat and their modern origins can traced back to 19th Century Germany. The term gnome is believed to have its origins in the 1930’s.

Garden Gnome Origins

The practice of statues as lawn ornaments dates back to at least the time of the Renaissance. One of the most prolific designers of lawn ornaments, Jacques Callot, is known to have produced 21 designs for what was then called a dwarf, or hunchback. They remained a popular right up to World War II, when many of the manufacturers facilities were destroyed.

After World War II, the garden gnome become a fixture in the gardens of many Americans, and they remain so to this day. They are most popular in working-class and suburban gardens and they are the subject of a famous commercial in the United States, the Travelocity Gnome that turns up at exotic locations around the world on a regular basis.

The Modern Gnome Look

What do gnomes look like today? Just about anything you can think of. The typical garden gnome is usually a male. But we can assume some female gnomes have to be out there somewhere since they seem to breed rather prolifically. Most have a beard and appear to be smoking on a pipe. Red hats are also common in garden gnomes and they can be seen in a wide variety of poses, most often fishing or taking a much needed nap since they travel so much and so frequently.

The History of Gnome Materials And Their Making

Historically, gnomes have been made from molds. Many are still made in this way to this day as clay is poured into a mold and then they are allowed to set up and dry and then the excess clay is removed. The gnome is then removed from the mold after it hardens and allowed to dry completely. It is then fired in a kiln until it is hard. It is then allowed to cool down and at this point it is painted. Most of the modern gnomes made today in the United States are constructed of resins and other similar hard materials.

Gnomes can also be the source of practical jokes and pranks. Some people have been known to steal them from their owners and demand a ransom to return them. Still, there are others who have felt a need to return them to the wild, and one example is in Italy at the Garden Gnome Liberation Front. But, worry not, go ahead and place that gnome in your garden as chances are it will won’t be kidnapped and held for ransom at any time in the near future and will be a fixture in your garden for