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!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Number 4, the biggest and oldest

Here's the last of my 4 new dolls houses in Bathurst. I bought this one on ebay from Melbourne, and happened to be in Bathurst when I had it freighted - fortuitous, as it's big and quite heavy! So it cost enough to bring it up to Bathurst, let alone all the way to Darwin ...

This house is over 3 feet wide - about 37" (or 92.5 cm), and 37" high as well, to the top of the roof ridge (40" (1 m) including the chimney, which isn't visible here as it needs to be fixed back into the house).

Style-wise, the house could be anywhere from about the 1880s-1930s. I don't know much about it, but, if the wallpapers are original, I think it probably dates from around the 1920s.
(There is a removalists' label inside one of the fronts - probably from a former owner, who perhaps might have a bit of information about it? I might try contacting them ..... )

The house has two opening fronts - well, they should open on hinges, but the hinges are broken, so the fronts are removable at the moment. They are held closed by little wooden latches that you can just see (at the bottom of the roof line, on either side of the non-opening central section), and there used to be a lock, as well.

There are two bay windows, one on either side of the front door ...

And just inside the front door is the staircase:

You can see that the exterior paint is quite worn and crazed, and some strips are missing from the door frame, window frames and roof ridges. I quite like the aged appearance, and the missing bits reveal earlier decoration. The existing brick exterior is incised into the wood, and painted (and then the paint seems to have come off in places where it's been washed or sanded). The exterior must originally have been papered with red brick paper - a tiny bit appears at the bottom of a window frame, where a strip of wood is missing:

The roof also has tiles incised into the wood, and is then painted grey - but where the roof ridge strips are missing, there is grey tile paper visible:

Inside the house, there are four main rooms:

and a little annex in the top left room! This was described in the auction listing as a pantry, but I'm pretty sure it was intended as a bathroom!

It's the only house of this age that I have which has a bathroom - very exciting! (Still needs cleaning!)

I mentioned the wallpapers - let's have a closer look at them. In both downstairs rooms is a rather faded and slightly stained paper with an art deco design:

I'm going to keep this paper - I've bought some artists' chalk pastels to disguise the water stains a bit. The colours were obviously brighter when the paper was new - you can see remnants of colours in some places - grey, yellow, pale blue, salmon and white. Perhaps the original colouring would be preserved behind the stairs, or behind the wood in the corner of this room - but I don't think I'll take the house apart to find out!

The lower left room, which I think of as the kitchen, had other wallpapers applied over the art deco one. I think I'll probably leave the remains of the bright blue paper, with black and red shapes on it ... but cover the water stain here with pastels ...

While whatever flooring was in the lower right room has long gone, there are remains of floor papers in the kitchen:

There's a streaky bluey-green paper, and on the right, a streaky brown paper. Both are covered with a reddish substance, which I think is probably from the base of lino which was stuck onto the papers at some point, and then later removed. So I think the original flooring was bluey-green in the centre, with brown strips at the sides (and back and front too, perhaps?) I'm not sure yet what I'll do with this floor - probably find some old floor paper and place it over this.

Upstairs, the wallpapers are less exciting, but both rooms have two layers of flooring. This is the upper right room:

Here's a better view of the original wallpaper, as well as a scrap of one of the papers applied over it:

The original paper was cream-coloured, I think - it's browned in places - and embossed in a small pattern of irregular round shapes. One of the later papers was a ca 1970s embossed design of green on white, which can be seen in the corner in the photo above. On the back wall, there are remains of this paper too - just the brown back part of the paper, which I am removing - you can see the shapes of the embossing in this brown backing. You can also see a scrap of another paper, with a pink on white design.

The floor in here is very exciting. What you see first is blue stripey lino with a pink painted surround - but under the blue lino is a pink floor paper with a design of tiny dots:

Isn't it wonderful?! I'd like to lift the lino off altogether - I just hope I can do it without tearing this lovely paper.

The upper left room has some rather nice lino:

and a plain terracotta wallpaper:

It also has the same kind of very delicate floor paper under the lino, this time in brown. The lino isn't as loose here, but you can just see the paper:

I tried out a couple of pieces of furniture, just to see what they would look like. Obviously, there's a lot more cleaning to do, let along possibly removing the lino, and finding new floor papers for the kitchen and lower right room.

This bath would look good with the lino - not such a good match with the brown floor paper, if I remove the lino ....

I thought the triangular decoration of this sideboard made from Handicrafts design 5363 (available from the early 1920s-1934) would go well with the art deco wallpaper ...

I am also thinking about dolls to live here. The rooms have very high ceilings - about 13 inches (32.5 cm), and this lower right room is 12" (30 cm) wide and 15" (about 37.5 cm) deep. I could either have 1/12th scale dolls with very spacious rooms, or perhaps slightly larger dolls - I'll see what I have, and what comes along .... lots of excitement ahead!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Interesting tab and slot construction

I mentioned that I had four new dolls houses (plus a cardboard one) in Bathurst. I've shown two of them, and while I'm now back in Darwin, I did manage to photograph all of them while I was in Bathurst, so I can still show you all of them.

This house was listed on Australian ebay last August, by a seller whose name was Jennie. That's how our mother spelt her name, and her birthday is in August, so I felt a bit sentimental about it anyway, but was also attracted by some lovely features, including the front porch with its picket fence. And look at that sliding front door! Here you can see it from the inside:

The house also has a very interesting construction. The right side of the front, and the whole of the back, are removable, and sit in place by means of tabs which slot into the base:

You can see the three tabs along the bottom of this side of the front, and in the next photo, you can just see the slots in the base. The two rooms behind this wall are the bathroom and a small bedroom, and they have a flower box running under their windows, which will look lovely when filled.

All the rooms in this house are decorated with wallpapers and carpet from a real house, perhaps the maker's house ... the seller didn't know who had made this dolls house, though, as her husband had rescued it from a clean-up in the Carlingford area of Sydney many years ago.

Here's the back wall, where you can again see the tabs slotting into the base:

What really fascinates me is that all the walls of this house are constructed the same way - they have tabs which slot into the base, and then the non-removable walls have little nails through them to keep them in place:

So, the back wall can be taken off, and the back of the roof lifts up:

Downstairs on the left is the master bedroom:

Through the door, you can see a small hallway and into the bathroom. I think that the tops of the interior walls have the same tab and slot construction, too. The wires hanging down by most of the windows were used to hang the curtains on - the curtains came with the house, but I haven't taken photos of them yet. They need washing before they are rehung - in fact, the whole house needs cleaning. I took photos of the kitchen/dining/living area, and then wondered what the kitchen flooring was made of:

So I felt it, and then wiped it, and realised that it was not in fact grey!

If there was that much dust on the vinyl flooring, I imagine there's the same amount on the carpets, so I will have to vacuum and shampoo them.

On the other side of the living area are the stairs:

leading up to one large room running the whole depth of the house, and one smaller room:

On each side of the roof, there's a rod screwed to the wall which can be moved upright and placed into a notch in the beading at the edge of the roof/ceiling:

The large upper room:

where the stairs come out:

The small upper room:

As well as curtains, all the windows, and the front door, clearly had some kind of covering stuck to them, probably plastic. I'll have to see if I can remove the glue marks before fitting new plastic. I wish I had photographed the curtains, even before washing them - they each have a number written on a bit of masking tape and stuck to them, and the windows also have numbers on masking tape below them, so it's easy to identify which window the the curtains go on:

I'm intrigued that the sides of the house are identified as northern (above) and southern (below):

This would mean that the back, with the kitchen and main bedroom, would face east, and the front, with the porch and front door, would face west. The downstairs bedrooms are on the south side, which here in Australia means less sun, and the dining room, kitchen and side of the porch are on the northern side, getting more sun and warmth. I don't know if the labels were attached by the seller, or have been there since her husband found the house - I wonder if either the maker of the dolls house, or the seller's husband, is a house builder, and so thinks in terms of siting a house with relation to the sun ...
The base of the house, laid out as a real house would be, is fairly large: it's 86 cm wide and 71 cm deep. To the peak of the roof is 43 cm. The scale is 1/16th: the room height is 6 1/4 inches, and the doors vary between 4 3/4" - 5 1/4". So I'll probably be furnishing it with the 1/16th scale brands of the period - Barton, Dol-toi, perhaps Lundby ... I have a couple of pieces of homemade furniture I was going to try out in here, too, but forgot. But the first task will be cleaning it, especially the carpets!