Small Talk

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.

A Tisket, A Tasket, A 17th C. Sewing Casket

Sewing Casket

This 1/12 scale sewing casket was inspired by a full-size sewing casket at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London that dates to 1671. The original was made by an embroiderer named Martha Edlin—at the age of 11 no less—and was passed down through her family for over 300 years. Cases like this one were often used by wealthy women of the time to store jewelry, sewing implements, and personal belongings, sort of like a 17th century Caboodle (remember those?).

Our miniature version was constructed by William R. Robertson from pearwood and has steel hinges and a mirror on the inside of the lid. Esther Robertson and Annelle Ferguson (both a few years older than 11) meticulously stitched the 26 petit point panels that cover the wooden structure. The miniature contents include a tortoiseshell needle case, a thimble, and various other ivory and mother-of-pearl accoutrements.

Quizzes Can Be Fun

Duncan Yo-Yo

If someone asked us if we wanted to play with some quizzes, our answer would most likely be no way (unless they were about our favorite sports team or gave us insight on our latest crush)! But, we could be passing up the chance to play with yo-yos.

Although the yo-yo’s origin is unknown, the most popular theory has the toy originating in 1000 B.C. China. Being an ancient toy, the yo-yo has had a lot of different names: quizzes, bandalores, chucki. Americans know it by it’s Filipino name, which means “come back,” thanks to Pedro Flores who began producing yo-yos when he immigrated to the United States in 1928. Two years later, he sold the company to Donald F. Duncan who produced T/m’s two-colored yo-yo.

Today, Duncan is still making yo-yos for novices and experts alike. The National Yo-Yo Museum in Chico, California hosted the National Yo-Yo Contest on October 5, 2013.  You definitely won’t see us there anytime soon… we’re still trying to nail the sleeper trick.

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