Small Talk

Match Box Dolls Make a Comeback

match box dolls

What happens when you mix a Beanie Baby and a Polly Pocket? Well, you might end up with a match box doll!  Popular in the 1970s, these bean-filled dolls are small enough to fit inside of a match box, which doubles as the doll’s bed. Though they didn’t gain much popularity in North America, match box dolls were all the rage in other countries around the world as an inexpensive alternative to the popular toys offered in the United States at the time.

Today, match box dolls are making a comeback in North and South America. After being unable to find a doll similar to the ones she played with growing up in Cyprus and Greece, entrepreneur and mother of three Elizabeth Cross created Stork Babies. Each of these modern match box dolls come with a personality all their own: a Spanish gal named Carisa, for example, encourages everyone to “enjoy the world and all the beautiful things it has to offer, especially ice cream!” Cross’s daughters (ages 6, 10 and 11) act as the company’s Vice Presidents of Design, insuring that the dolls are on-trend and of course maintain maximum cuteness.

Playful Competition

national toy hall of fame 2014

It’s that time of year again! The National Toy Hall of Fame has announced the finalists for the 2014 induction. And it looks as though we might be having a case of déjà vu… this year’s two inductees could be American Girl dolls, bubbles, Fisher Price Little People, Hess toy trucks, little green army men, My Little Pony, Operation Skill Game, paper airplane, pots and pans, Rubik’s Cube, Slip ‘N Slide, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Since the finalists were announced on September 22, almost 7,350 public votes have been cast. Make sure your opinion is included! Learn more about the finalists and vote on the Hall of Fame’s website. Check back there or here on Small Talk after November 6 to see if the bubbles float to the top or the pots and pans make a big bang!

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

Imagination Takes Flight

mechanical flying toys

From the ancient Greek myth of Icarus, to Leonardo Da Vinci’s fantastical flying machines, mankind has held the desire to fly for centuries. Up until the Wright Brothers finally got it right in 1903, “gentlemen scientists,” inventors and early aviators scrambled to unlock the secrets of powered and controlled air travel. During the era of the steam-powered engine, the idea of a flying machine really, well, took flight.

Toys of course mirror the times in which they were produced. Naturally, as the world became fascinated with flying, tin flying machine toys featuring propellers, wings, parachutes and hot air balloons became a common sight in the 19th and early 20th century. This particular clockwork wind-up mechanical flying machine toy was likely attached to a cantilevered weight on a central base. When the mechanism was wound, the pilot’s legs pedaled the propeller, causing the toy to “fly” in a circle. While this imaginative depiction of early flight makes for a charming toy, we’d still prefer a comfortable window seat and complimentary peanuts.

A Magnificent Miniature Microscope

william r robertson miniatures

If you had tiny little eyes, you could use this microscope to see even tinier little objects! Barely over two inches tall, the microscope is fully functional. The microscope was made by artist William. R. Robertson, who crafted it after a full-scale microscope in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The full-scale piece was made by Claude-Simeon Passemant in 1760, likely for the science-loving King Louis XV; it’s obvious this is a microscope fit for a king!

To make the miniature microscope, Robertson visited the Met, where he was able to measure and photograph the full-scale piece. Next, Robertson had to match the golden hue of the microscope’s gilt bronze. He tested several different types of gold before discovering that melted Canadian maple leaf gold coins produced the correct shade! The gold is normally burnished with wolf teeth; luckily, Robertson had saved his dog’s puppy teeth after she lost them—a  fine substitute! Another challenge was the microscope’s barrel. The full-scale barrel is covered in a unique material: shagreen, the skin of sharks or stingrays. Often dyed green, shagreen was popular in 18th century France. Robertson had to find a material that would replicate the pattern of shagreen in miniature. While shopping in France, he stumbled upon a decades-old piece of shagreen from a baby shark—the perfect find! In total, the finished microscope contains 125 parts. Now that’s what we call magnificent! See the microscope and other T/m miniatures on view now until February 22 at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

A Doll Abode with a Simple Commode

victorian dollhouse bathroom

We often like to ask our guests on a tour if they notice anything unusual about the New Rochelle Mystery Dollhouse. At first glance, the house appears similar to our many other stately Victorian dollhouses: there’s a parlor, a grand staircase and every room is furnished with tiny doll décor. What the untrained eye may not have noticed is that this dollhouse contains something many real-life houses from the time period didn’t often have: a bathroom!

If you look closely at the room in the upper right of the house, you’ll find a bead boarded alcove with a built-in bench with a hole in it … ok, this toilet looks more like an indoor outhouse than the porcelain thrones we’re used to today. The toilet’s tank is the box located high above with a long pull chain to flush. The bathtub and sink located to the right is also paneled around the sides, making them permanent fixtures in the room. While we don’t know exactly who manufactured the New Rochelle Mystery House, we can tell that it dates to the 1880s, which was the same time period Prince Edward VII of England commissioned a plumber, and sanitary pioneer, named Thomas Crapper to install lavatories in several royal palaces. Yes, that’s right, the first Mr. Crapper and perhaps the origin of the use of the word… that’s quite a claim to fame! All toilet jokes aside, this doll bathroom is certainly a special feature!

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