Small Talk

The Wonderful World Of Miniatures

Courtesy Walt Disney Family Foundation, ©Disney

T/m founder Barbara Marshall wasn’t the only one inspired by the Thorne Rooms. Before settling at the Art Institute of Chicago and other art museums, the miniature rooms traveled the United States including an appearance at the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition. There, they captured the imagination of former Kansas City resident Walt Disney. Disney began collecting miniatures on his European travels, bringing home minuscule works in wood, glass, china, and metal.

He also tried his hand at the craft creating 100 5 ½” inch pot-bellied stoves that he gave to friends and sold for $25 each. To his delight, Thorne purchased two to add to her collection. In the 1950s, Disney began working with Disney Studio animators to create an entire miniature world that he coined “Disneylandia.” He envisioned placing the miniature settings on a special 21-car train; the animated scenes would tour the country and come to life when a quarter was deposited. Although the project never happened, some believe it was the forerunner for Disneyland.

Disney continued to use models and miniatures in dreaming and scheming for his big projects. Check out some of these miniatures from the Walt Disney Archives. And learn more about The Miniature Worlds of Walt at The Walt Disney Family Museum.

Photo: Courtesy Walt Disney Family Foundation, ©Disney

Bliss-Ful Toys

Bliss Dollhouse

Founded in the 1830s in Rhode Island, the R. Bliss Manufacturing Company crafted a variety of wooden products in its 100 year history ranging from piano screws to tennis racquets. The most famous (and of course our favorite) Bliss products were wooden toys and elaborate dollhouses. The company’s founder Rufus Bliss was a trained carpenter who introduced new technologies to his craft in the form of manufacturing techniques; one invention was a machine for cutting wood screws that made the process faster and more accurate.

The hallmark of Bliss toys was the colorful chromolithographed paper applied to the wooden pieces. This new printing technology not only added colorful, decorative detail to the toys, but also helped Bliss achieve financial success through mass production. When added to a sturdy and attractive wooden dollhouse, the chromolithographed designs made for one of the most beautiful toy lines on the market. Today, Bliss toys and dollhouses are highly collectible and can often be identified by a trademark or logo placed within the design.

Art Nouveau Spring Sketches

Jardinere Sketch

We’re the first to admit that we wouldn’t even know where to begin creating something so beautifully intricate in such a small scale. Lucky for us (and for you), Linda LaRoche provided T/m with a behind the scenes look at the creation of Flora Marina, Flora Exotica.

We’ll be sharing insight into her process over the next couple of weeks, starting with this intricate sketch of the piece. First, LaRoche created a rough sketch of the object with the carvings and marquetry designs loosely drawn. Looking at all of her scaled measurements for the jardinière makes our heads spin!

Around the World in 175 Days

Aeroplane Race

Ninety years ago today, eight dapper pilots began the first flight around the world in four airplanes that were later nicknamed the “World Fliers:” the Seattle, Boston, New Orleans, and Chicago. After 74 pit stops, Chicago and New Orleans completed the journey over 175 days with an in-air flight time of 371 hours and 11 minutes. That may seem slow compared to today’s world record of 41 hours and 7 minutes, but in 1924 (still three years before Charles Lindbergh’s famous solo flight across the Atlantic) the sensational success of the World Fliers fueled excitement about airplanes.

Capitalizing on this interest (do you see a common theme appearing here?!), Wolverine Supply & Manufacturing Company began making “Aeroplane Race ‘Round the World,” a tin board game that mapped out the planes’ exact route. Armed with their own miniature World Flier, two to four players spun a dial to fly around the board hoping to avoid forced landings, storms, or any of the other maladies that grounded the real pilots on their journey. Much like the Oregon Trail video game for children of the 1980s and 1990s, children had fun while learning about the actual hardships of aerial circumnavigation. Although, unlike the Oregon Trail and the real World Flier pilots, there was no risk of dysentery from drinking lagoon water!

Where Did It Go?

Coleman House

If you’ve been watching T/m’s Facebook page, then you know that the Colemans have moved out of their gigantic homestead. But this isn’t just any normal move; after every last item was lovingly packed, it was time to move the house. How do you move a nine-foot tall, seven-foot wide dollhouse?! The same way you would a real house: take it apart piece by piece (and mark each one very well), load it on a truck with a “Oversize Load” sign (ours fit in a U-Haul), and take it to its new location (in our case, temporary storage).

Lucky for us, Julie Denesha with KCUR Kansas City Public Media documented the move: check it out! If you can’t get enough of Coleman House, don’t miss T/m’s spotlight on Antiques Roadshow Monday, April 7 at 7pm CST where Coleman House serves as the backdrop for the appraiser’s analysis of two of our dollhouses.

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