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!


  1. Hello Rebecca,
    I am happy you were able to find these house after you collected all the information. They are beautiful and must have been so much fun for children to play with. I am glad they survived.
    Big hug,

    1. Hi Giac, Yes, I was very happy too! I think they are both very attractive, and children must have loved playing with them - I'm lucky to find some that survived. I still hope that I might find more - it does help knowing what to look for! Hugs, Rebecca

  2. Hi Rebecca. They are both great houses. I have one cardboard house that is in a tudor style but there doesn't appear to be anything on the box about where it was from or even the manufacturer. It is just called "Giant Dolls House" - just this minute saw 'Made in England' which was my assumption because of the style of the house.The bottom of the box is the inside of the house with printed carpets and a little bit of garden. http://www.dollshousespastandpresent.com/apps/photos/photo?photoid=161941101

    1. Hi Sharee, Your cardboard house is lovely. It has similarities to the older of my two, and to the American ones I know - but whether that's just because they're from the same era, or because designs were shared, who knows. I will keep an eye out for your Giant Dolls House in newspaper ads and catalogues, etc - wouldn't it be great to know more about it!

  3. Love the colors of the 1968 house....and the fence enclosing the yard...and the different flooring inside! Hope you are able to discover more houses of card and they come to live with you.

    1. The colours of the 1968 house are so fresh and light, aren't they? The colours of the older house remind me of some of your 1930s Rich and Keystone houses!
      I hope more houses of card come to live with me - I have just learned about another one that was offered in the 1930s, free to readers of a magazine who collected 4 vouchers for it - now I will be keeping a keen eye out for that one too!!