Small Talk

Raggedy Ann Turns 100

Raggedy Ann Turns 100

With her button eyes, triangle nose, candy-striped pantaloons and orange yarn hair, Raggedy Ann is one of the most recognizable dolls around. You might be surprised to learn that the raggedy redhead has gone through a only few updates in her 100 years as play icon. Ann’s 1915 patent shows her with very long thumbs, a teardrop-shaped nose, a puffy dress, and a floral bonnet with her namesake on a ribbon.

While much folklore surrounds her creation, we know that Raggedy Ann’s creator Johnny Gruelle created Raggedy Ann (and later Raggedy Andy) for the pages of children’s books. Set in his daughter Marcella’s nursery, Gruelle’s first book, The Raggedy Ann Stories, introduced the doll who embarked on a series of adventures: raiding the pantry, rescuing the family dog, and teaching tolerance to the other dolls in the nursery. You might say the secret to Raggedy Ann’s longevity lies in her softness—both literally and figuratively.

School is Now in Session

School is Now in Session

Where do miniature artists hone their craft or (quite literally) learn the tools of the trade? Sadly, no, the answer isn’t a miniature version of Hogwarts. Every summer, the International Guild of Miniature Artisans (IGMA) hosts students in Castine, Maine for six-days of workshops and classes led by some of the world’s leading fine-scale miniature artists.

The event, known as Guild School, welcomes all skill levels from beginner to advanced. This year, participants can learn silversmithing, leathercrafting, wheel-thrown pottery, pizza making (yes!) and more from some of our favorite artists, including Pete Acquisto and William R. Robertson. Do you dabble in miniature making and want to build your skills? An annual Guild School Scholarship is available to a promising artist. Who knows, maybe your work will end up in a museum someday!
Photo: Courtesy of IGMA Guild School.

Finely Furnished: The Tynietoy Town House

Finely Furnished: The Tynietoy Town House

During the 1920s and 1930s, the United States fell in love with its roots: the colonial era. The Tynietoy company’s founders Marion Perkins and Amey Vernon reimagined a wide variety of historically-inspired wooden dollhouse furniture based on the full-size furnishings of America’s earliest years. It probably comes as no surprise that in addition to Tynietoy’s furniture offerings, matching Georgian colonial mansions were also produced.

One of the most popular and stately models was the New England Town House, seen here. The Tynietoy mansion has two floors connected by a grand staircase, a smaller wing, and a long attic with a hinged roof. The removable façade of the house has nine celluloid windows, green shutters, and a painted neoclassical doorway complete with a door knocker. If you are thinking this description sounds like a real estate listing rather than a dollhouse, you’re not too far off. According to a 1930 catalog, the New England Town House sold for $270 completely furnished- that’s about 40% of the price of a new car at that time!

The Write Stuff

The Write Stuff

Several things might come to mind when you think of the word “secretary:” Dolly Parton’s character in the movie 9 to 5, current U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, or maybe even the 1973 Triple Crown winner… oh wait, that’s Secretariat. In furniture, a secretary refers to a large cabinet with drawers, compartments, and a flat writing surface. Historically, secretaries vary in size, style, and functionality from very ornate to compact and sleek. Long before Siri sent emails for us, secretaries were all the rage.

Miniature artist John Davenport created the German Secretary pictured here based on designs from eighteenth-century schreibschränke (or writing cabinets). The secretary has 23 drawers fitted with brass hardware; three of which have a working lock and key. Most notably, a pair of one-point perspective marquetry landscapes adorn the outside, the larger of which is on the hinged panel that becomes the writing surface when opened. If you were about five inches tall, this secretary would be the perfect piece of furniture to pen your memoir, write a letter, or work on your blog!

The World Made Small

The World Made Small

Generations of visitors to Colonial Williamsburg have witnessed history come alive before their eyes. Historical reenactors interpret everyday life in the revolutionary city, from famous patriots to tradespeople and shopkeepers. One of the best ways (and of course our favorite) to see how children lived in America’s earliest years is through the toys they played with.

The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum at Colonial Williamsburg has stepped out several of their dollhouses for an exhibit called The World Made Small. More than just playthings, dollhouses provided a way for girls to learn the importance of keeping house. Among the dollhouses on display is an 1820 cabinet-style house filled with over a century’s worth of family heirlooms, including a tiny chest-on-chest made from a cigar box. A massive fifteen-foot-long dollhouse from 1900 steals the show with Victorian furnishings that emulate full-scale homes of the time. Colonial Williamsburg staff and volunteers actually re-created several paintings from the permanent collection on a small scale to adorn the walls! Not to be outdone by the “girlish” dollhouses, the exhibit also features toy structures for boys including a fort, soldier’s campsite, and a farm.
Photo: Courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg.

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