Small Talk

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.

Miniature Museums Go Global

Miniature Museums Go Global

Can you imagine if one of our miniature artists created a scaled version of The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures? That’s so meta, right? You would probably need the power of the Hubble Telescope to see our collection!

In reality, that’s exactly what several artists are doing around the world. For example, in her traveling exhibit space, Gallery 1:10, Anna Lidberg exemplifies this phenomena in shows like If You Tolerate This. This special collection features two museum spaces. Miniature books created by Henrik Franklin sit on stands as if they were on display in one room while mini-television plays next door. Another Miniature Museum at Gemeentemuseum Den Haag features 2,000 works from over 850 famous artists including Roy Lichtenstein and Damien Hirst; all no larger than 10 x 10 x 10 centimeters. Each tiny work was produced specially for the museum. We like to think we’re trendsetters!
Photo: Courtesy of Henrik Franklin, henrikfranklin.com and Gallery 1:10.

Finely Furnished: The Tynietoy Company

Finely Furnished: The Tynietoy Company

Rhode Island was one of the most distinctive places for furniture-making in colonial America. It was only fitting that Marion Perkins and Amey Vernon founded the Tynietoy Company there in the 1920s. The female entrepreneurs capitalized on the colonial revival movement in America and began making high-quality wooden dollhouse furniture based on early American decorative arts movements.

Wing-back chairs, highboy cabinets, and four poster beds all found their way into dollhouses. Each piece of furniture was hand-painted by students at the Rhode Island School of Design. In 1923, the company standardized the dollhouse furniture to 1:12 scale (1 inch equals 1 foot in full-scale) and were produced in a variety of styles. Tynietoy’s high-end (and high-style) playthings sold at stores like Marshall Field’s and F.A.O. Schwarz. Upon Vernon’s passing in 1942, Perkins sold the company and by the early 1950s, Tynietoy had dissolved. Tynietoy dollhouses and furniture are (mostly) stamped with a trademark underneath and have become highly collectable today. Up next: a visit to T/m’s Tynietoy Georgian style dollhouse!

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