Friday, May 24, 2013

Diana's House

Just before Easter, I received two dolls houses which I had bought from an Australian collector who lives in northern New South Wales. She is downsizing her real house, and therefore also downsizing her collection. Here is one of the houses.

It was made in the 1940s for a lady named Diana Mitchell. Anne, the collector I bought it from, told me that the dolls house was made by Diana's grandfather from New Zealand timber. They lived "out the back" of Kyogle, a small town in northern NSW, on the Richmond River. It's a big dairy-farming and timber-getting area, not far from the larger town of Casino, where my father grew up. My father's parents' families had both been involved in dairy-farming around Casino and Grafton, so I'm very happy to have a dolls house that comes from this area. (I do wonder why Diana's grandfather used New Zealand timber, when red cedar and hoop pine are logged locally ....)

The front of the house comes off - it's held in place by the two little clips at the top, the pieces of wood on the inside of the front, and a hook at one side. The curtains are all original - they were made by Diana's grandmother.

Inside, there are four rooms. The kitchen (in the photo above), the living room and the bedroom have original furniture made by Diana's grandfather, with the upholstery, bedding and mats also made by Diana's grandmother. (Anne has added pieces, as I shall too, but I'll show just the original furnishings here first.)

Anne has done some restoration work on this house - when she got it, there was a split in the wood right down the back, through the living room downstairs and the bedroom upstairs. She filled the crack, and repainted the rooms in the same colours but slightly lighter shades (she said that they had been terribly bright).
(I've just realised I left the Dol-toi table in the living room! Obviously, it wasn't made by Diana's grandfather!)

You can see the filled crack in the back wall of the rooms.

Anne told me that she had also painted the doors and the fireplace in timber colours, as they were all painted the same colour as the walls they were in/on. She sent me a photo of the dolls house before she fixed the crack and repainted it:

You can clearly see the crack running up the back, as well as the blue fireplace, blue door on the living room side and pink door on the bedroom side.

The house clearly had a bathroom, as the small room upstairs has the same white and green checked floor paper as the kitchen, and the same material (with small raised green spots) has been used for the curtains:

The bathroom curtains are on the left side of this photo; the other two windows are in the bedroom. The same fabric used for the bedroom curtains is used for the living room curtains downstairs, too.

However, the bathroom furniture is not original - none came with the house when Anne bought it. Anne provided it with the set you can see in the photo of the house before she worked on it, and the set she included when she sold it to me. (The first set had a low cistern; Anne had then found a set with a high cistern of the type real houses of the time would have had - if they didn't still have an outside dunny!)

Anne also included some Erna Meyer grandparents with the house - I'll show them when I post about it again. I have already been looking through my stash for things like pictures to hang, and thinking that this grandmother would be very likely to use the fly covers I bought at the fair, to protect the scones and other goodies she whips up when visitors call - so now I want to find some scones for the house!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Shutters or louvres?

Here's the other house which Anna-Maria was holding for me:

I have another of these houses, which has been overpainted and came without any furniture. So when I saw this one, I jumped at it:

The back slides off and inside - it's fully furnished! (And the house was in excellent condition until I walked into the door frame, carrying it - Anna-Maria picked up the pieces and put them in a tiny ziplock bag for me, so I can glue them back on.)

I also have a few pieces of this furniture, which I'd bought separately quite a while ago. Christine has an identical house with lots of furniture too.

So it seems clear that it was produced for sale - but where? and by whom?

It probably originates from Sydney - it's come up for sale there, in coastal areas north of Sydney, and as far north as Brisbane, as far south as Canberra - as far as I know ....

I haven't seen it in any catalogues from the Sydney toy store Walther & Stevenson - but as I've only seen four catalogues, two from the 30s and two from the 50s, that doesn't mean a great deal.

And thinking of dates, when do you think this house and furniture dates from?

Here's the furniture in more detail:

A piece is missing from the table - perhaps I'll be able to replace it, that might help keep it even ...

Also a foot missing on the green wardrobe - I've propped it up with a pebble ...

As you can see, the wardrobes come in two sizes - one has a drawer at the bottom, the other doesn't.

The round table is in pretty good condition, just a little warped:

The matching chairs are missing both cross-pieces from the back (and someone has painted the very top black??), and the rungs from the bottom:

Thankfully, Christine's chairs have the top piece, so I'll be able to copy it (they are also missing the other pieces, though - can't have been very firmly attached!)

I think this is a stove -

the round bits on top look like hot plates, perhaps?

The black paint looks a bit messy - I might investigate and see if there's something else under it ...

This is the bottom of the possible stove - none of it opens ...

And finally, the other set of living room chairs:

The separate set which I bought some time ago is green and purple - I'll see if I can dig it out!

I'd like to make some bedding and perhaps cushions for this house. I'm not sure what will suit it - florals? geometric patterns? I wish I knew when it was made!

The base doesn't look as old as some of my other houses:

I'm guessing that "#65" means it's been sold at auction sometime, but the other numbers - both the printed/stamped 24743 and the handwritten numbers - seem to go under original parts of the house, the front steps and the outer edging of the base. I'll check and see what the base of my other house like this looks like ...

Back to the question I posed in the title of this post - I have been thinking of this as the Shutter House. But shutters are not at all common on houses in Australia, even on older houses. Perhaps they're intended to be louvre windows, even though they open as a whole like shutters? Louvres are very common in hot and tropical areas like the Northern Territory and Queensland, and in old houses in Sydney too, louvres were often used on the sunroom. What do you think, louvre windows or shutters?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A-frame in New Zealand

An A-frame dolls house has been relisted on Trade Me, New Zealand's online auction forum:

Look! It has a sunken floor in the living room:

and a spiral staircase:

The dimensions are 65 cm x 59 cm x 52 cm high.

It's pick up from Rangiora, near Christchurch. I won't say I wish I lived close enough (too many earthquakes!) but I do love this house! Think how you could furnish it!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Toy journals and catalogues at the National Library of Australia

While I was in Canberra recently, I was able to look through the collection of toy trade ephemera (catalogues, flyers, etc) and some issues of the Australian toy trade journal, at the National Library of Australia. Autumn is a lovely time in Canberra, as you can see!

The National Library holds issues of The Australasian Sportsgoods and Toy Retailer from 1964 (I will have to go to Melbourne to read issues from the 1950s). So I started with 1964 (the year that Barbie was new! Play-doh was new!), found that 1965 wasn't on the shelf, and went through 1966-1969. I really only had time to skim and look at the photos. Here are some of the dolls houses I spotted.

The East German export agency Demusa advertised regularly. Above, in December 1967, is a dolls house with an open front and arched doorways, shown fully furnished. Below, from August 1966, is a bungalow:

(Sorry about the curved photo - 12 issues of the journal were bound together, so getting them to lie flat wasn't easy!)

In December 1966, the Demusa ad showed more traditional furniture:

I was rather surprised to see that Demusa also advertised traditional German "Schultüten", paper bags full of goodies for children's first day at school. I imagine that their ads were prepared for international distribution, but I do wonder whether there were any orders for these from Australia:

Actually, with most of these manufacturers' and agents' advertisements, we don't know whether the items were actually ordered by Australian retailers, and stocked by Australian toy stores. I spotted some toy store ads which do show dolls houses - in some cases, I recognise the houses, as with these Triang dolls houses in the Melbourne toy shop Nathan Blight in July and September 1967:

The Triang U dolls house can be seen just to the left of the two women, while the Triang V is on an upper shelf on the right. (Is there another house in the corner to the left of the U? I can't quite make it out ...)

Other photos of toy shops show dolls houses I don't recognise, for example this house shown in November 1968:

It looks rather like what I remember of our childhood dolls house - white and two-storey!

I did discover at least one Australian dolls house maker I hadn't known about before. I had seen a few dolls houses by Bestoys on ebay, but hadn't realised they were Australian. Here are the photos I found:

Bestoys display at the Melbourne Toy Market, in July 1964
(The table and chairs in the foreground look very like the ones we had as kids!)

Bestoys display at the Melbourne Toy Fair, in the August 1967 issue
(Perhaps the house on the right here is the one behind the toy shop owners in the photo above??)

Bestoys was based at Botany, a suburb of Sydney. When I googled it, I found entries in recent business directories for Lumberjack-Bestoys, in Engadine, another Sydney suburb. Interesting, especially as I had found this dolls house in a Toyworld catalogue from Geoff Emerton Sports & Cycles, of Kingston in the ACT:

This looks rather like the design of the Bestoys dolls house on the right in the 1964 display above. I can't find a date on my photos of this Geoff Emerton catalogue - I think it is probably from the late 1970s or the early 1980s, as it also shows Matilda doll playsets, the Toltoys Family Tree House, Matchbox Play Boot, and Fisher Price Play Family School and Chime Ball. (Also, the phone number for the shop is 95 9741.)

And I think the dolls house on the left in this photo below, could be the dolls house on the left of the Bestoys 1964 display, above:

This photo dates from November 1966. The house on the left has the same alignment of doors and windows as the Bestoys house does, and when I zoom in on the 1964 display photo, I can see some markings above the door and windows. I didn't see a photo of a Bestoys display from 1966, but perhaps that's what this couple are standing in front of?

Mt Ainslie from the National Library

Other imported dolls houses I saw were Jenny's Home, from Triang, heavily promoted in 1967:

A Chad Valley tin lithograph dolls house, advertised in 1968 and 1969:

I think this Melbourne toy store (H W Rice of Fitzroy) has a Chad Valley dolls house on the floor in the centre of the photo in this ad from May 1969:

What's the taller dolls house behind it, I wonder?

Eagle Toys of Canada exhibited at the toy fair in 1968 - the write-up mentions "dolls house mounted on castors" - but I don't see any in the photo of their stand, though there are lots of tea sets:

The "Holly Lodge" Wooden Doll's House from the UK was displayed at a toy show at the Travel Lodge Motel, Sydney, in February 1968. There's no photo of it, but presumably this was the Chas. E. Methven "Foldaway" dolls house, which has the name Holly Lodge by the door?

Other Australian dolls houses included one from John Sands, a stationery and board games manufacturer, in June 1968:

and a craft set from Sally-Ann in August 1964:

The ephemera collection of toy catalogues included some earlier and some later than these trade journals. There were two Walther & Stevenson catalogues, one missing the cover, but going by the items shown and prices given, it's from the year before or the year after my 1933 catalogue. This catalogue shows four dolls houses:

I am very intrigued by these houses, especially as there's a note just underneath these descriptions saying "We also have English and Aust.-made dolls' houses in other styles than above". My "Italian Villa" style house, which I had thought was homemade from the 1950s, has a red roof, rough cast walls and fancy door and window frames - and the porch over the front door is identical to the porch on the No 3 and 4 "Wendy" two-storey houses here:

So perhaps it's not homemade after all! And perhaps it's earlier than the 1950s, too.

The other Walther & Stevenson toy catalogue held by the National Library dates from 1953/54, a couple of years earlier than my 1956/57 catalogue. It has a page of dolls houses:

A Triang No 50, No 60 and No 61, with one Australian-made dolls house shown, just above an Amersham house:

The Australian-made house (no 64) is described as "Beautifully made and coloured, opening doors and windows. Side also opens. Green and red. Size, 8in. high x 14in. x 15in. A fine house. Price, 46/3 each." It looks to me as if it has Romside windows?

Again, the catalogue says "Come in and see the largest range of dolls houses in Australia. A size and price house to suit "your" request. Here are a few of these Wonderful Houses." So, there were probably other Australian-made designs as well as other imported ones - if only there was a complete, fully illustrated catalogue of all of them!

Walther & Stevenson still sold Australian-made wooden dolls house furniture, and was also able to offer Kleeware furniture again, showing bathroom and dining room sets for 1953/54, and promising sets for other rooms by January 1954. I'm curious about the statement "These are now made in England" - where were they made before this?

Black Mountain with the Telstra Tower, from the National Library

Among the more recent catalogues, from the 1990s and 2000s, I saw familiar brands like the Sylvanian Families, in this November 1993 ad:

Blue-Box, with the Carry-Along Dream House from December 1995:

And a whole page of dolls houses, furniture and dolls in the 2000 Millennium edition of the Windmill Equipment and Good Toys Guide, for teachers, schools, kindergartens, childcare and parents:

I will, eventually, put all the images from the toy trade journal and catalogues onto flickr. There's a lot of food for research in the trade journal especially - I hope I'll be able to go back and read the 1960s issues more thoroughly, as well as go through later issues.

I hope you've enoyed this glimpse of Canberra, too!