Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Iberian Connection

Some bloggers are very good about welcoming each new follower individually. Although I don't do that, I'm very grateful to all my followers, readers and those who find me through google and comment on the post that interests them. I'm delighted to see that I now have 88 followers - thank you all very much!

I particularly want to draw your attention to two recent followers' blogs: El cuartin de juguete and architoys. Both have posted about things that will look very familiar!

Remember the Villa Hogarin and Hogarin family on Florine's blog?

Here is Papa Hogarin on El cuarte de juguete's blog:

Callsmall has found some wonderful fold-up dolls houses, and posted about one by Winthrop Toys in April:

From El Cuartin's blog, I learned that the same house was made in Spain by Daypa:

Have a look at the other dolls houses and toys on this blog, too!

While El Cuartin posts in Spanish, Architoys is a Portuguese architect. When I checked out his blog recently, I discovered some fascinating posts about construction toys. Remember the Super City set which I bought, and the Skyscraper version which Oese bought? Here is one of the scenes Oese has created with her set:

Architoys discovered that Canadian novelist Douglas Coupland created an installation called "Super City" at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in 2005:

Apparently, the Super City set was released by Ideal in 1967, and withdrawn a year later! (Hmm, didn't Ideal release the Petite Princess line just a couple of years before, and withdraw that too?)

Architoys gives a link to a NY Times slideshow of Douglas Coupland's house, where you can see some of his collection of construction and architectural toys - and the house itself, which looks as if it was built from a Super City set!

When Architoys visited the International Toy Fair in Nuremberg this year, he also went to the German National Museum, and photographed some fantastic dolls house furniture, including this display of cardboard furniture made by Hapa in 1945:

The desk set is the same as my PI Angus Shand has in his office:

- I had not seen the bedroom set before.

There are lots of other interesting posts on architoy's blog, so do have a look. And no, I don't understand Portuguese, but I have learnt how useful google translate can be for a language you don't know!

I love how I can keep learning more information, and getting new perspectives on my dolls house collection, through the world of blogs and other networks on the web :-))

Rocket Science and the 1940s

This week, I contacted two people who bought 1950s Australian toy catalogues on ebay. Both sent very helpful replies. One collects Australian tintoys, and the other, qilich, collects Australian and New Zealand made space toys.

qilich shared some research on Australian toy manufacturers, and reminded me of an essential source for research: the digitised Australian newspapers (1803-1954, but not yet complete) available on the website of the National Library of Australia. I have previously searched this, for family history and for dolls houses, but had forgotten about it when writing my last two posts.

qilich had found advertisements for the Marquis kitchen set in newspapers dating from 1948 and 1949, so they're earlier than I'd thought. The 1949 ad, which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday 30 November, is wonderful, as it shows the whole set illustrated:

As you can see, it cost 22/6, which sounds quite expensive to me - although the year before, David Jones, an upmarket department store, had advertised it for 27/6!

qilich also found a 1948 ad for the Tiny Town Kitchen Set I showed in my previous post. It was on sale for 1/9; the original price was 3/7. Being on sale in March 1948 suggests that it was not new - I'd think it would have been released in 1947 at the latest.

The same sale included Miniature Furniture, 6/- now 3/-, and Morley Toy Furniture (8/6, now 6/-), as well as Little Housewife Sets (5/2, now 3/-). It might be possible to find out more about the Morley Toy Furniture, but (saving an illustrated ad), I doubt we'll ever know exactly what the Miniature Furniture was!

So, having been reminded of this wonderful Australian research source, I did a search for Wee Folks, the company that made the Dining Room Table and Four Chairs in my previous post. Turns out they were based in Melbourne - the company advertised in the Melbourne newspaper The Argus. The first ad I found was in 1944, for Skittles, The Old Favourite Game, 8/6 each. Other ads were for factory space, plastic moulding, staff (secretarial and packing), and residential properties to buy and rent. The company was also the subject of legal action in 1949, so the records of that case might give more information about the people involved. I haven't yet found any more information about their toys, but qilich also sent me a 1947 article from Australian Plastics about plastic toys, which shows the Wee Folks table and chairs:

The Wee Folks dining room table and four chairs are in the centre of this display from Australian Plastics September 1947.

So, there are ads for the 3 Australian-made boxed sets I've posted about which date from 1947, 1948 and 1949. All of them were available in the late 1940s, earlier than I had estimated in my earlier posts. Thank you, qilich, for providing evidence to date them - and for reminding me of a great resource for research!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

More Australian-made dolls house furniture

Here are the two boxed sets that I did win. They belonged to the same lady who had owned the boxed Marquis set as a child.

One is another set of plastic furniture, a lovely deco style dining table and chairs:

The top of the box says Wee Folks Miniature Furniture Set No 1 - Dining Room Table & Four Chairs, while the side adds A Wee Folks Production, Wee Folks Australia Productions.

Some of you might recognise this set:

(Table: 1 1/2" high, 4" long)

It is almost identical to a set made by the British company Bex - according to Margaret Towner, the trade name of the British Xylonite Company, Ltd, of London. I have the chairs and sideboard from the Bex 'Toy Town Furniture' set - here are a Wee Folks and Bex chair side by side, and the bases of each:

The Wee Folks chairs are unmarked, while the Bex chairs show Made in England - A Bex Moulding. The Wee Folks table does have markings:

As well as Wee Folks Aust., it shows a diamond with the letters A.E.C. within it.

I haven't been able to find out anything about Wee Folks Australia so far. Apart from the Australian Electoral Commission, the Atomic Energy Commission, etc, A.E.C. was the name of a UK based heavy vehicle manufacturer, in existence from 1912-1979: AEC stood for Associated Equipment Company. This A.E.C. did have a presence in Australia - here is an entry from a 1930s Sands directory of Sydney:

But were they the makers of this dolls house furniture? If they made all the components of the buses and trucks they manufactured, that would probably have included some plastics, so perhaps they were - though the British A.E.C. used a symbol with a triangle, not a diamond.

There's one more clue on the box -

- the name FARRELL in tiny print - but does this indicate who made or printed the box, or have something to do with the furniture?

The other box contains two sets of kitchen pots.

It's called the Tiny Town Kitchen Set No 1, and contains two sets of four saucepans and a frying pan. This box is more informative, as it names the manufacturer as Goodwood (Aust.) Productions.

The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney has a collection of scale model cars made by Goodwood (Australia) Productions. According to the museum's database, Goodwood Productions Pty Ltd (based in Melbourne, in Victoria) made a range of zinc diecast scale model toy cars between February 1952 and June 1961. The range featured models of Australian-made cars, trucks and specialist vehicles, and were very popular with children as they "represented familiar outlines", but eventually, the British-made Dinky and Corgi model cars out-competed them.

(Frying pan: 1 1/4" diameter, 2 1/2" long)

These dolls house pots were probably made in the same time period, the 1950s to very early 1960s - and as they belonged to the same little girl, the Wee Folks dining table and Marquis kitchen most likely date to the same era. Thank goodness this little girl kept the boxes - the pots are completely unmarked, and only the table in the dining room set is marked, so without the boxes, we would not have known that these were made in Australia, let alone who made them. Both boxes very tantalisingly say "Set No 1" - what other sets did they make, I wonder?

Could Goodwood possibly be the manufacturer of the Australian-made metal furniture which I've shown before? This has been thought to have been made in Sydney, but there's no catalogue or packaging evidence yet, as far as I know. The model cars are painted in similar colours - red, green, blue and cream enamel - although these were probably common colours at the time. Some of the cars are described as having marks (words and numbers) pressed into the underside of the model (though most have raised marks). The metal furniture has numbers impressed into the backs or undersides of the pieces. Perhaps it would be possible to compare the metal, the style of the numbers, and the shades of the paintwork, of the furniture and cars.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Marquis of Cabinets

I have mentioned the Australian company Marquis before - I have a Marquis blue and white kitchen set in my Italian Villa style house:

Amazingly, a boxed set of this furniture has just sold on Australian ebay. I'm not the new owner, as I was outbid - I did win two other boxed sets of Australian-made dolls house furniture, which I'll show when they arrive. However, the seller very kindly said that I could save her photos of the set. Amazingly too, the seller said that these sets had come from the original owner, who played with them very carefully when she was young, and was now letting her grandchildren play with them!

According to the lid, the Marquis Little Homemaker Modern Plastic Kitchens in Miniature are Educational, Washable and Durable.

The side of the box shows the company name and address:

Commonwealth Moulding Pty. Ltd. Arncliffe Sydney Australia

I wish all boxes were as informative!

Inside, the table and chairs, sink, stove, fridge, and three cupboards - one with straight sides and two with open, rounded-end shelves - are all in their original slots in the cardboard:

And look at the sides of the box - there are pictures! The inside of the box and the inside of the lid are both printed with images of the walls of a modern kitchen, showing two windows, a door, a clock, 11 cupboards attached to the wall (plenty of storage in this kitchen!), and tiling below that.

So the room which is pictured on top of the lid can be made out of the box!

I know that Marquis also made bathroom furniture for dolls houses - I have some green pieces, and have also seen a pale blue set. Now I'm wondering if they also came in a box which could be used as a room - and what other sets Marquis made.

I have heard or read that the Marquis dolls house furniture was made using the same moulds as the American-made Plasco furniture. Does anyone know if Plasco also sold their furniture in boxes which could function as rooms in a dolls house?

UPDATE: Thank you, Louise! Louise of Grandmas Attic - Toys and Treasures has posted scans of boxed Plasco sets from Dian Zillner's book American Dollhouses and Furniture from the 20th Century. Plasco boxes did indeed form a corner of a room - Zillner's book pictures a living room, bathroom and bedroom. Also shown are boxes with a cellophane window in the lid, which don't seem to have had the images printed inside. Perhaps these replaced the ones with cardboard lids? perhaps when Plasco started making dolls houses as well? I wonder if Marquis followed Plasco in changing the packaging - I've never heard of a Marquis house, though.
Louise also has a wonderful pink and grey Plasco bathroom (in cellophane window box) for sale.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Remember this?

Remember this modernist, 3 storey house which was offered twice on ebay UK, the year before last and last year? Oese also made a miniature version of it . (If anyone can remind me which blog or dolls house website we discussed the second sale on last year, please do! I know it's there somewhere ....)

Another house in this design was listed on ebay recently:

this time with a label:

"An O.D. Product
Made in Scotland"
around a drawing of a thistle.

(See redrickshaw on flickr for better photos of this house.)

Coincidentally, at about the same time, Rick posted a query on Dolls Houses Past and Present about another house with the same label - this one a more traditional two storey house with lattice windows, pitched tile roof, and entry porch on the right.

So I did a bit of sleuthing in the old British telephone directories*, and found an O.D. Construction, Woodworkers, at 2 Wellington st. Paisley (ph PAIsley 4533) from 1956 to 1958. (Paisley is in south-west Scotland, very close to Glasgow.)

In 1958 there is also a listing for O. D. Products, Toy Manufacturers, at 20 Blythswood st C2 (ie, Glasgow Central) (ph CENtral 5584). From 1959 to 1970, the only listing is for O. D. Products in Glasgow - O. D. Construction in Paisley doesn't continue after 1958, and O.D. Products is not listed in Glasgow after 1970.

So I suspect that they started in Paisley as general woodworkers, found their toys were very successful, set up in Glasgow as toy makers in 1958, and ceased the general woodworking business after that. The dolls houses with the O. D. Product label probably date to between 1958 and 1970.

Are there more designs out there? What other toys did they make, I wonder? And who was the genius who designed this 3 storey dolls house?

(They're online at Ancestry, which is subscription only, so I can't link to it.)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Around the corner ...

from my sister's new granny flat in the Sydney suburb of Annandale are lots of interesting places. Down the lane and right is Revolver, a cafe in a former corner store (photos from my sister's landlord's blog Me fail? I fly!):

Up the lane, right, and up the hill, are the Witches' Houses (including The Abbey, Oybin, Greba, Hockindon, Kenilworth and others):

And then, up the lane, right, and down the hill, is Trains Planes and Automobiles' Sydney store. Very luckily, I was in Sydney on the two days a week that it's open, so I was able to go in and browse. This is a lovely little shop, full of old wooden glass-fronted cases which display the said trains, cars and planes.

In one of the cases I found this lovely wooden station:

- a model representing Manchester station, which has a label identifying the maker as 'Scale HUGAR Model Buildings, HUGAR MODELS LTD. Epsom, Surrey.'

I hadn't heard of Hugar before, but found some information on the web: Hugar models were made by Hugh Gardner (apparently in his garden shed); Hugar was also known for his Britain’s farm and military items. The authors of the website which mentioned the Hugar farms planned a booklet on Hugar Models, and had found links between Hugar and other model railway makers including Basset Lowke.

(I have some Basset Lowke scale model posters - I intended to use some as pictures in the kids' bedroom of the Triang 52, but my attempt to frame them wasn't successful. I'll try again.)

I love the art deco style of this Hugar station. I also love how all the signs advertising tobacco have the possessive apostrophe s after Wills - they all read Wills's, with a small, superscript 's. I'm not sure yet how I will use it, as it's in the model railway scale OO (1:76). The platform is 2 feet long, and the entrance way onto the station is 2 1/8" high. Perhaps I will give it to some dolls house children to play with as a toy, or not worry too much about the scale and use it as a station with small dolls - or somehow put it in the distance so it looks the right scale!