Saturday, February 21, 2015

A flower transfer house from Victoria

I've seen several houses listed on ebay in Victoria which had transfers - or decals - decorating the otherwise fairly plain front. I definitely wanted to add at least one to my collection, and when this popped up late last year, I was able to buy it.

The seller was able to tell me that her mother-in-law had bought the house in 1966, at Barwood Toy Shop in Stradbroke Park Shopping Centre, Bourke Road, Kew East, in Victoria, for her daughter's 4th birthday. I love being able to date dolls houses precisely!

Apart from the flower transfers - pansies and brown-eyed Susan daisies - and the balcony railing on the front, the house is quite plain. There are four window openings and one door opening - they don't look as if they have ever had 'glass' or a door attached to them. The house is open at the back, and each of the four rooms is painted a different colour - pink, blue, cream and olive green. I didn't ask if the house had been repainted at any stage, but I think not - the paint is very neat, with no sign of other colours underneath these. Perhaps it was bought cream, and the other colours were added before it was given to the little girl - either way, I think these are original 1966 colours.


The sides are very simple. You can see that there is foxing - spots of discolouration - on the paint. I have washed it - it's possible that a stronger cleaner would remove them, but I don't want to damage the paint, or repaint it.

The side walls continue up to the peak of the roof - there is no ceiling on the upper floor.

Here are some of the other dolls houses with transfers which I have seen listed in Victoria. 

This one has a chimney, and is front opening. There is one transfer - an animal (a cat? missing its head) - above the front door. Inside, there are rather crudely cut stairs, and there seem to be arched doorways between the rooms.

Here's another one from the same maker:

I liked this one, with its kitten transfer - such a pity that the seller's son had broken the door :-(

I would still like to get one of these, but haven't seen one recently.

When I looked through the Australasian Sportsgoods and Toy Retailer journal for 1975-1978 in Canberra last month, I found two makers of dolls houses decorated with transfers.

For one, I found only one photo, from the 1976 Toy and Games Manufacturers of Australia fair, in the July 1976 issue of the journal. 
"The Winslow Marketing Co showed wooden toys from S. M. Collins, Bairnsdale, including blackboard, table and chair sets, dolls cradle, ironing board, dolls house and the popular unpainted bench set. Also from Patrick, NZ, Benson nursery, plastic and vinyl toys plus Patrick jigsaws, draught sets, wooden blocks and peg and hammer sets. On the stand is Garry Holzer."

These S M Collins dolls houses do not have chimneys, and appear to have two doorways cut into the ground floor, with two window openings in the upper floor. There is a line of colour - probably a strip of wood - across the front of the dolls house,  but I don't know whether the it's just decorative, or serves as a grip to open the front. It's hard to tell for sure, but I think that the wooden panelling of the display stand can be seen through the window and door openings. If that is the case, it indicates that the houses have open backs.
There are two transfers on each house, placed in the centre of the ground and upper floors. The houses have different transfers, but on each house, the same image is used on both floors.

I have found a newspaper article from July 1975 with an interview with Stan Collins, timber miller, in which he explains that S M Collins Pty Ltd had turned to making wooden toys less than two years earlier (so in late 1973 or early 1974), partly because there was a demand for them, and partly because it was harder to get good quality timber for milling.

So although my transfer house resembles this S M Collins dolls house (which seems to have an open back, and the same rectangular shaped windows and doors as on mine, although placed differently), mine could not have been made by S M Collins, as it predates their first wooden toys by at least 7 years.

The other manufacturer of dolls houses with transfer decorations was Somerville Toy Traders. Despite the use of 'traders' in the name, both the sign on their stand, and the caption, indicate that they manufactured the toys shown. No information is given in these short write-ups about where they were based, but an online search revealed that they were based in Mount Eliza, in Victoria, incorporated in May 1975, and changed their name to Ten Progress Street Pty. Limited in 2000. They appear to be still active, so I may be able to find out more.

This photo is from the May 1975 issue of the toy trade journal. The caption reads:
"Somerville Toy Traders: Manufacturers of a wooden range of hookey boards, shuttle sets, hammer peg sets, etc., plus dolls' houses, garages, hobby horse, shoe flys and kiddies' furniture, table tennis and billiard tables. A brand new release was a Do-It-Yourself Pool Table assembly kit which comes in a cartoned pack and makes up to a 6 ft. x 3ft table."
Although there are transfers on the nursery furniture, there doesn't seem to be one on the dolls house.

This photos shows the display of Somerville Toy Traders' wares at the 1976 Toy and Games Manufacturers of Australia fair. The dolls house looks very like the one shown in 1975, although it does have a transfer between the two upper windows. Also, I don't see a chimney. 

Somerville Toys were displayed that year by ABCED Trading, who also showed Australian-made Rainbow soft toys, and imported Ellegi remote control toys and Canova nursery items (both imported by ALLTOYS, so interesting that ABCED was showing dolls houses from a manufacturer other than Bestoys), and Beauty soft toys.

The 1977 display at the Melbourne Toy Fair. 
"Somerville Toys: Displayed their own range of very stable wooden table and chair sets, nursery seats, pull-a-long toys, dolls houses, push/pull carts, billy carts, pull-a-longs, cradles and cots, plus an old favourite among the children, the wheelbarrow. Also showed snooker and table tennis tables, hookey boards, shuttle tennis and bobs."
 (Yes, it does spell pull-alongs that way, and mentions them twice!)

There is definitely no chimney on the dolls house, and the transfer is clearer. Like the houses shown in 1975 and 1976, this house seems to have a central front door and four square-ish windows. It's impossible to tell if they are front-opening or have open backs.

It's unlikely that Somerville Toys made my dolls house, both because of their incorporation date of 1975, and because the windows are such a different shape. So it seems that there was probably another, earlier, manufacturer of dolls houses with transfers in Victoria, who made my dolls house.

Could either S M Collins or Somerville Toy Traders be the maker of the other transfer houses I've shown here? I don't know when these two front-opening transfer dolls houses were made. They have a chimney, as does the earliest Somerville dolls house, but on the back of the roof rather than the front. They also have windows which are more rectangular than square, so less like the Somerville squareish windows than the Collins rectangular ones, although not as long. They don't have clear similarities to either maker - perhaps they're from another manufacturer again?

Back to my flower transfer house - I was inspired by the pansy transfer to find furnishings with pansies for it. I don't have any furniture for it yet, but I have got some rugs, pictures (some downloaded and saved ready to be printed out) and bowls or pots of flowers!!

I may well change these around, or not end up using them, but I've had fun trying them out!

(I only have one horseshoe, but I tried it out inside, and where I think I will put it, on the balcony.)

I'll look for some furniture to try out, and show you again once I've found some. I'm not sure what scale will work best - the door is just under 5 ½" tall, which would suggest 16th scale, but the ceiling height of the ground floor is 9", and the floor size of the bedrooms is about  8 ½" by 11 ½" each, which would accommodate 12th scale furnishings. I'll see which dolls and furniture looks best!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Woodtoys - another house and more info

While I was staying with my sister in Bathurst, we spent a couple of days in Canberra. As well as catching up with friends, meeting a collector, and picking up a dolls house that Anna-Maria was holding for me, I was able to spend more time in the National Library of Australia, and go through four years of the Australasian Sportsgoods and Toy Retailer journal, 1975-1978.
I found lots of ads or displays at fairs for dolls houses made both overseas (I'll show some of the them in another post) and in Australia - I now have several new names of dolls house makers, and have identified the makers of some of my new dolls houses.

This is one of the houses I have in Bathurst - I bought it on ebay from Sydney late last year, and the seller was happy to post it. I bought it because some features reminded me of other houses - though now I can't remember which, or by which maker.

Well, never mind - I now know that it was made by Woodtoys in 1977. You may remember that I bought a house nearly two years ago that is a dead spit for a Bodo Hennig model (1979-1987), but which has the name Woodtoys on the brick paper on the back of the house.

In the toy trade journal, I found information about Woodtoys dolls houses in 1975, 1976 and 1977. 

"The four toys shown in the accompanying photo are the work of Woodtoys, PO Box 64, Lakemba, NSW 2195, which is a partnership of father and son, I J and A T Burden. Father is a former departmental buyer and the son is a former 'Knight Of The Road' with a large general toy wholesaler.
The Burdens make no apologies for the fact that they are in a modest way, and they have had some ups and downs. "In fact," says young Burden, "the respect we have for fellows like Jim Bonaretti [of Bestoys - RG] and, in the past, Keith Lovelock, has increased tenfold - paint dust in everything, no room to move; shoving equipment around to make room for something else; returns from customers through carriers' rough handling. I could go on for hours!"
However, the trauma has passed and now the duo operate in about 3,500 ft. of space, which still is not enough but is a big improvement on the original area. They now do all their own work since the installation of a table saw, band saw, docking saw, sander and other units and employ labour.
The items illustrated show a Georgian style Dolls' house, a pony rockaway, dolls cradle and a table and chair set. They propose several new lines in 1976 including a traditional type rocking horse on a stand similar to the one put out years ago by Roebuck."
Australasian Sportsgoods and Toy Retailer, December 1975, p 62.

Woodtoys' 1976 display at the toy fair shows the same Georgian-style dolls house, which seems to be painted in a range of colours. The caption reads:
"Woodtoys, Lakemba, NSW, displayed Georgian-style dolls houses, pony rocker, toy tidy; dolls wardrobe, rocking cradle, Ampol service station; kitchen dresser; table and chair set; rocking horse and box of blocks. Pictured is proprietor Ian Burden."
Australasian Sportsgoods and Toy Retailer, March 1976.
In 1977, there are photos of Woodtoys' displays at both the Sydney and Melbourne toy fairs, so we get several views of their new dolls house.

Yes! It's my new dolls house! Can you see the canopy over the downstairs window, and the poles supporting the roof of the carport?

The caption says:
"Australian-made range of wooden toys, including coloured table and chair set, a toy tidy which makes into a desk, pony rocker, dolls house, cradle, dropside cot, Mickey Mouse and Abba table and chair sets. All toys come unassembled and are individually cartoned with assembly instructions ... they are all NEW. Most popular item on display was the Deluxe Rocking Horse."
Australasian Sportsgoods and Toy Retailer, April 1977.

I can't read all the writing on the sign, but I can see that the address for Woodtoys is now Greenacre, NSW, a suburb next to Lakemba - so perhaps the Burdens had moved to new premises with more space.

Detail of the house from the photo above - it's on the right, in the centre.
Australasian Sportsgoods and Toy Retailer, July 1977.

The photos of the display at the Melbourne toy fair show the dolls house end-on - and it's a very distinctive view, with a doorway from the rooftop patio to the house cut out of the end wall of the house:

The other Woodtoys dolls house I have has printed paper wallpaper, brick paper and flooring. This dolls house has the wall and floor designs printed straight on to the plywood.

Note the fabric "hinge" which attaches the front door to the wall.

The interior, showing the floors.

Parquet tiling downstairs and hexagonal tiling upstairs.

A geometric design upstairs, and a blue houndstooth design downstairs.

Simple red tiling for the rooftop patio, and in the carport, grass around the edges, gravel in the centre, and clear plywood for the driveway and the parking space.

This house is 16th scale. I haven't furnished it yet - I will look out some of my 16th scale pieces to take down next time I go to Bathurst.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Definitely shutters, if only I could show you!

So much has happened since I last posted about my dolls houses, I don't know where to start!

In early December, I went to a conference in Newcastle, in New South Wales, for work. As Christine Jaeger lives near Newcastle, that gave us a chance to meet - for the first time, though it certainly didn't feel like it! I had a wonderful evening looking at all her dolls houses, furnishings and dolls, and we persuaded her husband Max to take a photo of us - here we are standing in front of her Princess house:

At the conference, a friend mentioned that he would be driving from Sydney through Bathurst the following weekend, and he offered transport if I had anything to go to Bathurst. I didn't exactly - but I had been thinking about a dolls house listed on Gumtree, that was in Ashfield, in Sydney .... things worked out, and the Ashfield dolls house is now mine, and in Bathurst!

What hasn't worked out is the photos of the front of the house, which I know I took while I was in Bathurst in January. (Being a Gumtree listing, it has now disappeared from the interwebs.) The front of the house has a central porch, with a false front door (which doesn't open), and false windows which all have opening shutters. That is probably hard to imagine, but unfortunately, photos will have to wait until I am next in Bathurst.

UPDATE: The friend who collected the dolls house from Ashfield and delivered it to Bathurst also very cleverly saved a photo from Google's cache soon afterwards. Thank you! Here is a thumbnail of one of the photos in the Gumtree listing:

The photos I do have show the paint stripping I did to reveal the original colours. It is currently painted dark brown on the porch, shutters and roof, and the exterior walls are white. The roof was originally green, scored to simulate tiles:

This is the back of the roof, where I started the stripping. I'll probably have to repaint it green - or at least even out the scrape marks. In the top right of the photo, you can see the base of one of the two chimneys. The other chimney is on the back left of the house:

The walls were originally painted a lovely honey colour:

Inside, there are four rooms. The top two were painted pink and apricot - a bit of stripping shows that the pink room was originally apricot too:

Here you can see the top left room, with the doorway through into the top right room. All the rooms have skirting boards, architraves around the doorways, and picture rails. There's no evidence of any doors. The wood trim was originally dark brown, as you can see here:

(After I took this photo, and realised that the apricot paint goes over the white paint on the architrave, I removed a wee bit and found that it's painted over earlier apricot paint. So both upper rooms were originally painted apricot.)

Above the picture rail is a buff colour under the white:

Downstairs, both rooms are painted a greeny blue colour. I don't have a good photo of that - that also seems to have disappeared with the photos of the front of the house. You can just see a bit of the blue in this photo of the kitchen floor:

This is the only room with interesting flooring - textured paper of some kind, I think (which has been overpainted with white, and then had something stuck over that, by the looks of it).

The other floors seem just to have brown paper. At first I thought it had the kind of spatter and smear pattern that some lino tiles had in the 40s and 50s, but I think it is actually paint spatter, smeared by being wiped off, from when the roof was painted brown:

 You can see in this photo that the ground floor doorway is set further back than the upper doorway.

The white paint splashed messily on the wood trim, and spreading on to the walls, was presumably applied at some point when the walls were wallpapered. There were some remnants of paper which I have removed - none with any pattern remaining, just the back of some wallpaper. I also started removing the white paint from the walls - I will strip them back to apricot upstairs, and greeny blue downstairs, with brown wood trim and buff above the picture rail. I may find a similar paper for the kitchen, but will probably find rugs or carpet for the other rooms. Outside, I will strip it back to the lovely honey colour with a green roof and green trim on the windows, shutters and porch.

I'm so annoyed that I don't have a photo to show you of the front, as it's much the most interesting part of the dolls house! I don't know who made this house, or when. It does have some resemblances to the dolls houses shown in Walther & Stevenson catalogues - the line of the porch, and the style of the chimneys - but that may be coincidence. It is very well made, suggesting either a skilled home maker, or a commercially made house. The colours suggest the 1930s or 40s to me, but it could be from the 1950s, I suppose.

While I was in Bathurst, I also cleaned several houses by Bestoys, and another one by Woodtoys - I do have photos of them, and will show them in my next posts!