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.


  1. Liebe Rebecca,
    schöne Sachen hast Du da gefunden. Besonders gefallen mir die Möbel aus dem schön gemaserten Holz.
    Ich möchte ja auch immer gern solche schönen Möbel machen, so gut es geht. Zufällig habe ich nun in einem Begegnungshaus für Senioren, wo ich aber eine Selbsthilfegruppe und Yogakurs besuche, eine Gruppe gefunden, die Holzarbeiten macht. Mit meinem kleinen Sessel aus Balsaholz bin ich mal hingegangen. Dort waren vier ältere Herren, die mir nun zur Seite stehen können und mir die Maschinen erklären. Ich darf alles benutzen und es kostet nichts. Natürlich freuen sie sich, wenn ich mal einen Kuchen mitbringe oder so. Ich bin ganz happy. Habe schon meine Zigarrenschachteln herausgesucht für das nächste Treffen.
    Einen der Männer habe ich heute auf einem Fest getroffen, er ist Modelltischler und hat auch früher Puppenhäuser und Möbel dafür gemacht. Vielleicht können wir ja zusammen ein Haus bauen, ich habe schon eine Vorstellung, welches.
    Leider kommt er beim Sprechen immer so nah an einen heran, so dass ich immer einen Schritt zurückgehe (aber er kommt hinterher:-). Kennst du sowas? Naja, alles hat seinen Preis.
    Ich hoffe, es geht dir gut!
    Ganz liebe Grüße

  2. Great buys, you know I love the deco style and the chairs are lovely with the curved back and wooden feel. How funny two companies could have furniture this similar! But perhaps it's like the patterns on landscape scenery tableware? These patterns often circulated around Europe between the different makers. I collect coffecups, teacups and plates with blue sceneries and it's fun to see the same flower patterns around the edges being used in different countries. (I have so far over 60 different blue landscape patterns :-))

    The pots and pans are among the nicest doll's house pots and pans I have seen! Are they really made of zink? They do look very realistic!

  3. Such classic mid-century lines on the dining room furniture....brings back memories of the furniture pictured in the housekeeping magazines of my youth in the 50s! Looking forward to seeing which little house they will live in. :)

  4. The chairs and table look amazingly like wood. So realistic and in wonderful condition. Congrats on winning these sets -- hopefully it erases some of the heartache on losing out on the Marquis set?!

  5. Liebe Petra, das wäre toll, wenn du Holzarbeiten lernen könntest! Beim Specksteinarbeiten bist du sehr geschickt - und jetzt mit der passende Maschinen, könntest du sehr schönen, wunderbaren Möbel machen! Das freut mich sehr :-) - Die Möbel hier, die ich gefunden habe, sind aber nicht aus Holz, sonst aus Kunststoff - sie sehen wie Holz aus, nicht wahr? liebe Grüße, Rebecca

  6. Hi Pubdoll, that's a very good point about patterns on china. And maybe each company was copying actual 1:1 furniture, rather than one copying the other's design - though I still wonder if that happened, or whether there was some relationship between the two companies.
    The pots and pans are certainly made of metal, and it's quite light - I don't know how you test for zinc, though! I love the little holes in the handles - if I can find nails small enough, I'd love to hang them in a kitchen!
    Wow, 60 different blue landscape patterns! That is quite a collection! I'd love to see them. I have a small collection of china - Alfred Meakin 50s and 60s patterns like Carousel, Bill & Ben, Nice (the place), etc. The patterns have green, red and yellow in them, mainly. I'd love to have some in miniature! (Do you have any miniature blue-patterned china? I can't remember.) I wonder how many of us also collect china?!

  7. Hi Florine, they are lovely, aren't they? I don't know yet which house I'll put them in - I have the Bex sideboard in the Triang 52, and intended to have a dining table and chairs there too, but then I couldn't find a table, just had the chairs. So now I don't know! The downstairs room of the Triang 52 has got quite crowded since I first thought of having a Bex set in it. Maybe the perfect little house is yet to come!

  8. Hi callsmall, thank you, and yes indeed - I was especially happy to win the dining set, as the same table made by Bex is pretty rare, but to have a set made by an Australian company, which I knew nothing about before, is just marvellous. I actually think the Bex plastic looks more like wood - it has more marbling or graining in the plastic than the Australian-made pieces - but it all looks terrific anyway.
    If I hadn't bid on the pots and pans, I might have been able to win the Marquis set - but again, the thrill of having a boxed set made in Australia by a company I didn't know of outweighs that :-)

  9. congratulations on another good buy!! its really exciting finding things that are australian made! i don't know why, but it seems to me that our history of saving things for our future generations hasn't been a priority! it's like all the brass beds that were thrown in the wells, rather than keep them... heritage buildings replaced rather than restored! or, in the case of dolls houses, did we not have many because of the distance and freight ,involved... yes, you need another house to put them in. :-)

  10. Liebe Rebecca,
    I'm sorry that I was once again to lazy to read the text you wrote. I know it's worth it, but I often only have a look at the fotos. (Shame on me :-)
    I will do it better in future!

  11. Not at all, Oese - I'm very happy for you to look at the photos! I know my sentences can be complex - and a lot of this post is about research on Australian dolls house companies - not everyone is interested in that!
    Besides, I find I am now following more and more blogs, and look at the photos first, read if I can, and comment if I have time and my browser allows me to! Anyway, I'm sure you can make wonderful reproductions in wood, when you learn how to use the machines :-)

  12. Hi Christine, it is hugely exciting! Yes, we probably have a history of wanting to put the crude or old-fashioned buildings or furniture behind us - fashions don't become trendy again until a lot of the originals have been thrown out! I think a lot of dolls houses were homemade, and maybe if they were fairly rough or plain, they didn't survive - it does seem that not a lot were sold. I just contacted someone who bought a 1950s Brisbane catalogue - he says there are 25 pages of toys, but no dolls houses. The closest things are tea and kitchen sets. So you're probably right, the freight was prohibitive, and not worth the shop's while to stock them - or at least not to include them in their catalogue. If they had any, maybe it was just a few made by a local craftsman.
    I need another house to put them in?! I need another REAL house to put another dolls house in! (But maybe a small one - after all, it's 1/18th scale ....)

  13. Hi Rebecca. Interesting post. I really like the Bex furniture. The little zinc pans are very realistic looking, lovely items. Pan x

  14. Hi Rebecca!
    I love the art deco dining furniture!
    Lucky you! have a nice eveningmeal on it!

  15. My father opened up a company here in Australia in 1941 under the name Wee Folks Pty. Ltd. It had some connection to England, as our family was shipped out to Australia in 1940. The company had some connection to official sources, as equipment, premises and development funds were made available to produce a wide range of wooden and Bakerlite material items for 'educational' and basic toy needs for schools, kindergartens and general selling. It was considered that toys (specially 'educational') had to be provided for children during the war as established supplies from England (and of course Europe and Japan) were disrupted. I remember sitting at home assembling baby 'toothelers' to meet demand. These also served as rattles!
    Wee Folks survived the War period, but was overwhelmed by a flood of re-established products. It carried on for some time as an importer mainly of British tin and other mechanical toys, and very high quality West German toys.

    1. Thank you very much for this information, Brian - I am delighted to learn more about Wee Folks. What is/was your father's name? If you or anyone else in your family has any other information (eg catalogues, letterheads, invoices, etc, or memories of other kinds of toys that were made), I would be very interested to know about them. Many thanks again, Rebecca