Small Talk

Josephine’s Repurposed Play

Pincushion Chair and Guitar from Josephine Bird's Dollhouse

Josephine Bird decorated her dollhouse with the finest, traditional ormolu furnishings alongside objects she re-appropriated from everyday life. Dolls visiting the residents of the house may have rested their feet on some particularly cushy chairs. That’s because the chairs were originally meant for pins, similar to the tomato design that is believed to have originated in the 15th century, but gained popularity, along with other shapes (fans, dolls, shoes, fruits, and vegetables), in the Victorian era!

The guitar that the dolls jammed on probably didn’t make the greatest music. The guitar can be pulled apart and was likely a candy case or Christmas ornament sold at her father’s Emery, Bird, Thayer Department Store. Josephine’s repurposing is like the Victorian version of using those plastic pizza box saver thingies as tables for your Barbies or Calico Critters!

You Can Do Anything Good

Goldie Blox

Toys have communicated gender roles for generations: baby dolls and tea sets taught little girls how to be good mothers and hostesses, while building sets and trains prepared little boys for careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). A Stanford engineer set out to create a toy that helped little girls do what they already know: they can do anything good.

The result? GoldieBlox, a toy that lights little girls inventive spark and gives them the opportunity to explore all the possibilities for what they can be when they grow up. A set of interactive books and games, GoldieBlox is taking the pink toy aisles by storm. While we haven’t played with GoldieBlox yet, we love the mission behind it: a girl is more than just a princess, they can be anything they want to be!

Josephine’s Dollhouse Treasure Trove

Josephine Bird Dollhouse

This stately Victorian bookcase-style dollhouse stood silent on the third floor of a grand Kansas City home, forgotten for a generation. When Mrs. Joseph Hall first unpacked the family heirloom, she discovered dozens of antique candy boxes containing the dollhouse’s original, intricate furnishings. Good thing the candy was gone… there’s nothing worse than finding last year’s Halloween candy melted to the pillowcase you used as a bag. Yuck!

The elaborate dollhouse belonged to Josephine Bird, the mother-in-law of Mrs. Hall. Josephine was born in 1889 to Joseph Taylor Bird Sr., an investor in the Emery, Bird, Thayer Department Store. The department store, located here in Kansas City, was once heralded as “The Southwest’s Greatest Merchandisers.” Josephine’s dollhouse is filled with items repurposed from the store and gathered on her world travels. Stay tuned as we rediscover all the treasures Mrs. Hall found!

Magnifying Glasses Needed

ScotlandMiniatureBookExhibit

Scotland is famous for kilts, bagpipes, and the Loch Ness monster, but did you know it has been an important center of miniature book production since the 19th century? Neither did we!

In the 1870s, Glasgow publishing firm David Bryce & Son found that poorly selling books flew off—or perhaps blew off—the shelf when reformatted in miniature. The National Library of Scotland is exhibiting their collection of Bryce’s tiny tomes and other minuscule masterpieces, which they define as less than 3 inches in height and width. Bryce sold his books with a locket and magnifying glass for ease and accessibility. Yes, that’s right; people actually read the tiny volumes!

The library’s collection includes the first miniature book on record at 2 inches high and 1.8 inches wide. The library used to have the world record holder for smallest book: an edition of Old King Cole, a children’s nursery rhyme at 0.035 inches. Tokoyo-based Toppan Printing holds the current record with a needle-eye sized 22 page-illustrated guide to Japanese flora created using nanotechnology printing techniques. We think that’ll require a microscope!

Photo: National Library of Scotland

And The Winner Is…

2013 National Toy Hall of Fame Finalists

The National Toy Hall of Fame announced the newest honorees on Thursday. Selected from a field of 12 finalists, the lucky winners are… drum roll please… chess and the rubber duck!

Chess is one of the world’s oldest games, originating from an Indian war game where pieces represented different types of fighting men. By 1475, the English were playing the version we know today with bishops, knights, and pawns. Some chess players don’t mess around; they can be found in the World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis, Missouri.

The first rubber duck was different too… it didn’t float! Originally designed as a chew toy, the rubber duck floated its way into pop culture history when Sesame Street’s Ernie first sang “Rubber Duckie” to his favorite tub toy in 1970. Ernie was right, we still think rubber duck is the one for bubble baths!

Photo: Courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York.

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