Monday, June 29, 2009

Erna Meyer School ca 1950s

My favourite dolls' house dolls are by Erna Meyer. As well as individual dolls, and dolls packaged in couples or families, I have some boxed school sets. I found a homemade roombox on German ebay that makes a perfect school.

The outside is covered with brick paper:

and inside, the lower half of the walls of each room is brown wood, and the upper half is painted in the very institutional colours of cream and green.

In one room is the infants' class, taught by Mrs Thomas. They are having Morning News, followed by Storytime on the mat (today's book is Hansel and Gretel). Their maths workbooks are laid out on their desks.

Miss Johnson teaches the primary class. They will have an English lesson first, followed by maths, history and French. They also learn geography, music, art and P.E.
(The grubby little girl on the right of this photo came with the roombox.)

A portrait of the Queen hangs on the front wall; in the 1950s and '60s most Australian schools displayed her portrait.
There are also a number of posters relating to their study of Australian explorers, Federation, and Australian exports, as well as music and gymnastics.
It's a bit awkward for the pupils to sit at their desks wearing their satchels, so I must find some pegs for them.

This roombox was most likely made in the early 1950s. It came with chunky homemade kitchen and bedroom furniture, and in the kitchen dresser, along with a duster and string shopping bag, there's a little pile of German pfennig dated 1949 and 1950!

The teachers' desks and chairs, the students' desks, and the blackboards, are all part of the Erna Meyer school sets. The lids of the boxes show what the sets look like:

And inside one box was a leaflet from the shop where it was bought, "Gina & Selma" of Lexington Avenue, New York:

Another page shows groups of Erna Meyer dolls: grandparents, parents, children and nurse:

There's no date on the leaflet, but the school dolls I have have kneecaps, which dates them to between 1950 and 1962, according to a US researcher who is publishing a book on dolls' house dolls.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Homemade Australian Italian Villa ca 1950s

Here is another of my homemade Australian houses, the one I've most recently acquired. It is built in an earlier style than the Federation, Californian Bungalow and Arts & Crafts houses, but was probably actually made later than those houses.

The Italian Villa style flourished in the 1850s, particularly in Melbourne and Victoria generally, following the goldrushes. The style included features such as a stuccoed facade, arch-headed windows and stone paving at the front of the house, with clipped box hedges. I bought this from an ebay seller in Blackburn, an outer suburb of Melbourne. As a sheet of laminate is used to form the first floor, I think this dolls house was probably constructed in the 1940s or 50s, a century later than the real houses of this style which can still be seen in large numbers in Melbourne.

The house has been made with a lot of attention to detail. The stucco effect is created by sand stuck to the outside walls. The front door is painted to show moulded panels, and has a little door knob. A lamp used to hang in the porch, and there's a door mat for dolls to wipe their feet on:
Four flat, painted wooden topiary shrubs decorate the facade, and the ground storey windows at front and side are finished with window boxes filled with fabric flowers.

Inside, each room has skirting boards and simple cornices, and ceiling roses so typical of the era when Italian Villas were built. Only one lampshade is still hanging (in the living room), though another loose one came with the house. Here's the ceiling rose in the kitchen; this also shows the plastic laminate which the kitchen ceiling / bedroom and living room floor has been made out of:

My guess is that this dates from about the 1950s.

It's a small house, only 40 cm (16") high, with 15cm (6") high rooms, just the right size for my Australian metal furniture, and for Mr and Mrs Black, PI Angus Shand's clients (though even they have to bend to get through the front door!).

Mr and Mrs Black have just returned from a meeting with the private investigator, and Esmé Black is being greeted by two very enthusiastic dogs in the kitchen. She has already started laying out the afternoon tea.

The cupboard on the wall is built in. As well as the blue metal furniture, the kitchen is furnished with Australian 'Marquis' brand white and blue plastic furniture.

(The 'Marquis Mouldings' company, later the 'Commonwealth Mouldings' company, was established during World War II in the Sydney suburb of Arncliffe, near Mascot Airport. During both World Wars, companies producing dolls & toys started up in Australia, but didn't always survive post war when imported goods once again flooded in. The Marquis / Commonwealth plastics company, however, flourished into the 1960s, producing such varied goods as school rulers, kitchenware, and toilet seats.)

Upstairs, Harold Black is relaxing by listening to a record. He and his wife are very fond of music, and Esmé is quite an accomplished piano player.

The green piano and stool are part of the same range as the metal kitchen, living room and bedroom furniture. Not much is known about the maker, although it's thought possible that the EFCO Manufacturing Company, which made aluminium dolls' heads in the mid 1940s, may also have made this furniture. EFCO had its factory on the Prince's Highway at Arncliffe, just like Marquis / Commonwealth Mouldings.

The wooden pieces in the living room are by Barton (the bureau bookcase and TV) and Dol-toi (the radiogram), and the flying ducks on the wall are by Barrett & Sons.

The bedroom is decorated in pink and blue. To the blue metal furniture, I've added two little side tables by Barton, to hold the bedside lamps by Eagle Toys. The rugs here and in the living room are Westminster Tobacco premiums.
The cat has been asleep on the bed, but has heard Mr & Mrs Black returning, and is thinking of going down to see if any food is in the offing:

The maker of the Italian Villa had to improvise on some parts. It seems that large hinges were available to attach the front to the house, but the hinges holding the front door are made from leather and attached with tiny nails:

The hook which latches the front of the house closed is also handmade, from wire:

At the back, on the right side of the roof, is a chimney; it's not visible from the front of the house:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

PI Angus Shand

As Pubdoll (very appropriately) pointed out, a Private Investigator must have whisky! PI Angus Shand agrees, and has stocked up with some fine Scottish whisky - Grants, Spey Royal and Old Fettercairn, to fortify himself before he goes out to follow up a new lead:

(It was through his choice of whisky that I learned this private investigator's name. My Shand ancestors came from Garmouth, in Speymouth parish, Moray, in Scotland, and later bought estates in Fettercairn parish, Kincardineshire. One, William Shand, patented improvements in the distillation of whisky, ca 1830s.)