Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tell Laura I Love Her ...

I recently bought two fantastic catalogues on Australian ebay, from a Sydney toy shop called Hoffnung's. They are from 1968 and 1969, and as well as the toy shop's list of stock, prices, and some black and white illustrations, they both have bound into them various manufacturers' catalogues! Both have Bestoys catalogues!
The Laura dolls house is in both years. You may remember that when I showed my Bestoys Bambolina dolls house, I mentioned that Anna-Maria is very kindly storing for me another Bestoys dolls house called Laura, which she collected for me from a Canberra seller. That Laura looks like this:

The 1968 and 1969 Bestoys catalogues show two other, different Lauras!!!

Here is the one from 1968:

and here is the new Laura from 1969:

I think that my Canberra Laura probably dates from 1970 or just after - it has the same diamond-shaped moulding on the roof as the 1969 Laura, and I can imagine that the artificial flowers might have looked great to start with, but not lasted very long ... so replacing them with a fancy lithographed railing would make sense.

Not long after I received the catalogues, I spotted the 1968 Laura on ebay!!

Missing the front door, but still, look at that lovely sixties crazy paving style flooring!

And the gorgeous aqua shutters!

So, I put a bid on straight away. A middling bid - not as high as I would probably decide to go, but not low either.

Then, the night before the auction ended, I was working late on the Dolls Houses Past and Present magazine (as I have been most evenings the last few weeks), then stopped, went to ebay, put a bid on one auction and .... zooop! ... the power went off. Not just in my house, but all around too. So I got the torch, lit some candles, and did the night chores by candle light - went to bed by torch light - and got up the next morning to find - yep, STILL NO POWER!

The power was off right across the Darwin region, even as far south as Katherine (300 km away). The government had to shut schools and government offices, the police ordered the buses off the roads because it was too dangerous, and had police cadets directing traffic at some intersections until they could get generators for the traffic lights ... and I couldn't bid on my Laura!!!

In my consternation, it didn't occur to me to ring my sister and ask her to bid for me. I have a landline that doesn't need power - very useful in a place that often has blackouts, though they are not usually this long except after cyclones. The power was out at my place for over 12 hours - some suburbs got it back sooner, some later (they had to stagger it, apparently).

So I lost my Laura! To know about three different models of the same Australian-made dolls house, to have the possibility of owning two of them - and then to lose, because of a power outage - I was devastated - and also very cross!

I did message the seller to explain, and say, in case of non-payment or any problems, I was still interested! However, both seller and buyer have left feedback on the auction, so Laura has a new owner, who is not me :-( I just hope they don't wreck renovate her and destroy the original features!

At least I have the photos, so I know the colours of the walls, shutters, flooring and so on ...

Similar colouring to the Canberra Laura, but that is plainer:

The Canberra (ie probably ca 1970) door slides, rather than being hinged as the earlier door is:

So, although I have two Bestoys dolls houses (Bambolina and Canberra Laura), I can't really say I have a collection, yet. Perhaps another Laura will pop up ...

In fact, one already has - with balcony railings and shutters which have the diamond-shaped moulding, but with a hinged door! so clearly I do not yet have enough evidence to date the series ....

But this Laura has been overpainted :-( Is it worthwhile trying to buy her? She would not be as easy to reach as the Laura I lost, which was in the Blue Mountains - this one is in a western Sydney suburb ...

The Bestoys 1969 catalogue has given me another dolls house to dream about, too: Cinderella! Strange name for an A-frame, but I won't hold it against her.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Another Princess

Listed on Australian ebay recently was this copy of The Australian Woman's Mirror, with the tantalising headline "Special in this issue, Princess Betty's Doll's House - A Gift Toy".

The seller was quick to point out that, 80 years after publication, it was unlikely that this gift would still be available ... but I am always looking out for descriptions and especially illustrations of dolls houses in old periodicals, and I was not disappointed with this one.

A full-page article describes and shows the reproduction of Princess Elizabeth's play house, which readers of the Australian Woman's Mirror could obtain by sending in four differently numbered coupons (so even if the publisher still had the dolls house, I think I would have some trouble finding the other three issues of the magazine, in order to collect my coupons!!)

This dolls house is much smaller than the famous Triang Princess dolls house - this one is only 10 inches wide, 7 1/2 inches high (to the eaves) and the rooms are 3 1/2 inches deep. It seems to be made of cardboard - it is described as "made entirely in one piece, and machine-cut and scored. It can quickly be folded to shape according to simple directions."

The article begins,
"Thousands of girls and boys know that the people of Wales gave a marvellous Doll's House as a birthday present to little Princess Elizabeth - a wonderful Doll's House big enough for the Princess to play inside - with real furniture and all!
"Of course only a Princess could have a Doll's Houses as big as that, but - we thought - how wonderful it would be if every Australian girl and boy could have a little one similar to the Princess's, with a tiny dining-room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom, complete with furniture that could be moved around as they liked!
"That gave us an idea. We obtained all the plans and details of the famous original Doll's House. Artists and architects helped us with the model, and now the result of months of intricate work and modelling is available to every child who has longed to own a wonderful doll's house."

This sounds very much as if this version of the Princess dolls house is unique to Australia, indeed unique to the Australian Woman's Mirror - though I would not be at all surprised to find that a parent company of the Mirror in the UK was actually responsible for this model.

The stairs do not require many folds, as they are printed to simulate the treads and risers.

The article kindly showed all 8 pieces of furniture included with the house. Here is the bedroom furniture, and the bath:

You can see in the photo, above, showing the open back of the dolls house, that some furnishings were printed on the walls - the bathroom basin and mirror, for example, and the dining room fireplace. The dining room seems only to have been supplied with a table and a sideboard:

For the kitchen, there was a gas stove and a long cupboard (called a dresser, though not my idea of a kitchen dresser):

As suggested in the article, the child who owned this dolls house could add toys they already possessed, and perhaps a tiny doll as well.

Even if not every Australian girl and boy obtained this little house in 1934, I do hope that some have survived, and that one might find its way to my collection!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Heart Cake From Kaybot

Valentine's Day is not something I have ever celebrated - I don't remember it being a big thing when I was young, and I suspect that it's become bigger in Australia in recent years through being promoted commercially to sell more cards, chocolates, roses and so on ...

However, it seemed an appropriate occasion to share another of my new acquisitions.

When I wrote the article about Kaybot Novelties and Kay Miniatures for Dolls Houses Past and Present last year, I commented that it was frustrating that the 1951 and '53 ads for Kaybot's Golly Stores did not show any of their own plaster foods.

Then, late last year, a boxed Kaybot store popped up on UK ebay - and I was lucky enough to win it! This store is called the Circle Bakery, and the box has a photo showing Kaybot cakes and breads, as well as some boxed goods!

I was even more thrilled that the advertising signs at the top of the store are for Huntley and Palmer's biscuits and cakes - as my grandfather's surname was Palmer, he was called Huntley in the family.

Although the store shown in the label on the box is pale yellow, the store in my box is blue. It doesn't have any advertising at the back of the shelves, but has the same stickers along the top:

and the same Ryvita ad on the counter that sits in front of the shelves:

The counter is made quite simply, and the top has become a bit warped:

Here is the bakery filled with all the goods that came with it:

The boxes of sugar are different from those shown on the label, but are from the same range. I think I have boxes of the kinds of sugar shown on the label, but I expect that the actual varieties included did vary, just as the colour of the store did.

You can see that there are some gaps on the shelves of my store. I'm glad that so many pieces have survived with it, including one of my favourite items, the Hovis loaf:

It even still has its paper label! I loved eating Hovis bread when I stayed with my grandparents in England - and especially loved the mini Hovis loaves that we could buy with a bowl of soup when we went shopping at Bentalls, in Kingston-on-Thames! I have some other plaster Hovis loaves, but I didn't know who had made them, so I'm delighted to have this photo showing it among other Kaybot breads.

I also hadn't realised that the fruit tart on the counter, next to the heart cake, was Kaybot, nor the Victoria sandwich cake on the bottom shelf! Some of the items that are missing from my bakery include what looks like another fruit flan, on the top shelf, a cottage loaf, and the cake on the middle shelf with yellow, white and brown checkered icing. Luckily, I have just bought a lot on ebay that includes one of those cakes! What is it called? All I can think of is Battenburg cake, but that has checkered cake, not the icing ... Also, there's no Huntley & Palmer's Dundee Cake tin. I have one, in the kitchen of my Cupboard House - perhaps I will look for another one to add to this bakery.

All this writing about and looking at photos of bread and cakes has made me quite hungry! Unfortunately, I don't have any cake in the house - but I have plenty of bread, so I think I'll go and make some toast!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Five Years Old!

Yesterday, 7th February, it was five years exactly from my first blog post! To celebrate, I have been thinking about a giveaway - then I read Anna-Maria's post sharing the winners of her 8th blogiversary giveaways, where she mentions legal issues .... so I am still thinking about whether to do one or not.

So, for now, I will share with you some paintings by a distant cousin of mine. Cicely Elmslie Shand was born in 1898, in Newcastle, Northumberland, in England. (She was my second cousin twice removed - my maternal grandmother's second cousin.) She painted designs for postcards and greeting cards during the 1930s. She had married a naval officer, Cecil Sheppard, at the age of 18. We don't know much about this period of her life - where she and her husband were based, for instance - but we do know that they did not have children. Cecil Sheppard would have been at sea for much of the time - perhaps she painted then. Like many professional women of the time (Georgette Heyer and Marjorie Allingham spring to mind), she worked under her maiden name.

I was lucky enough several years ago to buy some of her original paintings for cards, on ebay. 'Welcome', above, is dated 1938. 'Acceptance', below, is dated 1935.

A fan of her work has created a website showing all the cards she published. These designs are not shown - perhaps they were not all published, although I do have a card of Acceptance. She was also included in the lovely book Postcards from the Nursery, by Dawn Cope and Peter Cope (although unfortunately, the description of her family mixes up the generations,  naming her grandfather William (my great-great-grandfather John Shand's younger brother) as her father, and her father Hinton as her uncle).

To Greet You With Joy, original artwork by Cicely Elmslie Shand for a greetings card, undated.

I would like to take the opportunity of my 5th blogiversary to greet all my followers and readers with joy, and to welcome my new followers. I hope we all have lots of fun with our collections in the year to come - I enjoy sharing mine with you, and seeing and reading about yours!

Toys, original artwork for a greetings card by Cicely Elmslie Shand, 1934. Image from ebay seller apb113 (Peter Haddon); sadly, I was outbid on this painting.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Who are we? We are Spejbl and Hurvínek!

I recently bought these dolls on Australian ebay from someone in Melbourne. I was rather taken with their expressions - rather sweet and wistful. There are two men, and two boys:

They all have big ears, big eyes, a prominent nose, and very little forehead. The men are bald, while the boys have a tuft of hair in the middle of their heads.

The men are wearing black suits made of a synthetic knit fabric - they have coats with long tails, and white pointed felt collars. Their hands are white, which probably indicates gloves. The boys are wearing blue shorts and white shirts made of the same type of synthetic knit fabric, with green felt braces.

The dolls themselves are made of wood, with the arms and legs joined to the body with wire:

The men are 5 1/2" (14 cm) tall, and the boys are just over 4 1/4" (about 11 cm).

I don't know who made these dolls, or who they represent. Recently, when I was browsing vintage doll listings, I saw some dolls representing cartoon characters, and I wondered if that's what these dolls might be. Do you recognise the characters? Or perhaps even know who made them?

Update: Gil Bomber of Cestina's Dolls Houses has identified these characters - thank you very much, Gil! She says:

"You have here two sets of the iconic Czech puppets Spejbl and Hurvínek (the former used to be known as Špejbl, with the first letter softened to a "sh" sound).

Here is a link to a website with some background information: http://mujweb.cz/spejblhurvinek/england/hist.html and you can find videos on youtube. (Here's a nice one:  

Where did you get them from Rebecca?   You don't often see them outside the Czech Republic.   I have the father but sadly not the son..."
Well, I bought them from an ebay seller in Melbourne. I will ask her if she knows anything about where they came from - I would think most likely from Czech migrants to Australia.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

John Sands and houses of card

Most Australians will know the name John Sands, our longest-established publisher of greeting cards. They used also to publish many other things - books, maps, pamphlets, and especially board games - and last year I discovered that they had produced a cardboard dolls house in 1968.

First, I saw this ad in the Australian toy trade journal issue for June 1968:

The dolls house was just visible in a photo of the Sands display at the TAGMA (Toy and Games Manufacturers of Australia) exhibition in 1969:

Then this brochure popped up on ebay, 'Welcome to Gameland with John Sands':

On the back of the leaflet is the dolls house:

so now I had a colour image of it:

Then, late last year, I was delighted to spot the actual dolls house on Gumtree, and the seller was able to post it!

According to the lid, it originally came with furniture for four rooms - the lounge room, dining room, bedroom and kitchen. None of this has survived with this dolls house, unfortunately.

The base of the box is up-ended, and forms the garden and ground floor of the house, into which the walls and fences are slotted:

The house itself is also missing a few parts - the porch, the lamp over the door, the dormer window and chimney, and the little balconies under the side windows. Luckily the awnings are still there - they make the house look nice and cheerful!

Apart from the missing bits, and a smudge of paint on one side (which I haven't yet tried to remove), the house is in good condition.

Does anyone know what the furniture looked like? Hopefully one day I'll find a more complete set, or, if I know what it looks like, I might possibly find the furniture separately. I'd love to see the house furnished!

Amazingly, not long after finding this John Sands dolls house, I spotted another one on ebay! The second one is much older - I think probably from the 1930s.

This is called the Play Time Doll House. Some collectors, particularly those in America, will probably recognise it - I think that this was republished by John Sands from an original published (probably) by Warren Paper Products Co of Indiana. Built-Rite / Warren Paper Products was one of several companies making cardboard dolls houses in the 1930s, and they produced a range of models. I have one which I bought some years ago, from Wendy Stephen in the UK. It has exactly the same wording on it - "A Large, Rugged, Easy to Build House" - though I have just noticed that in fact it has no publisher's name on it at all!

The bottom of this John Sands box again forms the base of the house. Being much older, the sides of this box have collapsed a bit, so I placed the base on a couple of books to get the required height.

You will, of course, have noticed the very large Rogers sign on the roof! The Rogers logo also appears on all four sides of the box. It is printed on the box, but on the roof it's a label which has been pasted on:

In tiny letters, on the bottom left, is the name of the publisher: John Sands Ltd., Sydney. The house was obviously intended to promote Rogers paints, stating on the roof "Always use Rogers - the Mark of Quality - Paints and Varnishes - "If it's Rogers - it's Right!"

The floor of the house (base of the box) also has labels stuck on, proclaiming "For renewing Cars, Cycles, Woodwork or Furniture, use Rogers - the Mark of Quality - Ace Full Gloss Super Finish, Made in attractive deep shades & in soft pastel tints for inside use".
The interior of this house, though, is plain white!

I have found ads for Rogers paints with the same logo, dating from the late 1930s, like this one from the Northern Star newspaper (of Lismore, NSW), on 8 July 1939:


The house itself is a lovely old English style, popular in Australia at the time. There's an arched porch door under a steeply sloping roof:

All the windows have shutters and window boxes filled with gaily coloured flowers:

The windows have cardboard panes which can be punched out, but most are, amazingly, still in place. The tabs on the sides of each piece of wall or roof are more fragile - some are missing altogether, and others are splitting after many attempts to fit them through the triangular slots.

It's interesting that, though this house shows signs of having been much played with (the missing tabs, and the sticky tape holding the box and the sides of the house together), more of the window panes haven't been removed. I would think that it would make the interior more attractive and more realistic, to be able to see out ...

I wonder how it was furnished? This box doesn't say that the house came with furniture, but perhaps John Sands also made the cardboard furniture produced by Built-Rite / Warren Paper Products in the US in the 1930s.

While checking the digitised Australian newspapers for Rogers paints, and any sign of their promotional dolls houses, I came across this ad, published in regional newspapers in Victoria in July and August 1930:

The Electricity Commission of Victoria was offering at their showrooms, "free for the kiddies "Yallourn Cottage", which is a handsomely colored cardboard "doll's house" with doors and windows that open."
I wonder if John Sands also published this? I would love to know what Yallourn Cottage looked like - it was clearly named for Yallourn, the town built between the 1920s and 1950s to house employees of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria, who operated the nearby Yallourn Power Station. When the coal mine next to the town expanded in the 1980s, the town was closed and removed!

Do you know of other Australian-made cardboard dolls houses and furnishings? Now that I have two houses, I'll certainly be keeping my eye out for more!