Small Talk

Around the World in 175 Days

Aeroplane Race

Ninety years ago today, eight dapper pilots began the first flight around the world in four airplanes that were later nicknamed the “World Fliers:” the Seattle, Boston, New Orleans, and Chicago. After 74 pit stops, Chicago and New Orleans completed the journey over 175 days with an in-air flight time of 371 hours and 11 minutes. That may seem slow compared to today’s world record of 41 hours and 7 minutes, but in 1924 (still three years before Charles Lindbergh’s famous solo flight across the Atlantic) the sensational success of the World Fliers fueled excitement about airplanes.

Capitalizing on this interest (do you see a common theme appearing here?!), Wolverine Supply & Manufacturing Company began making “Aeroplane Race ‘Round the World,” a tin board game that mapped out the planes’ exact route. Armed with their own miniature World Flier, two to four players spun a dial to fly around the board hoping to avoid forced landings, storms, or any of the other maladies that grounded the real pilots on their journey. Much like the Oregon Trail video game for children of the 1980s and 1990s, children had fun while learning about the actual hardships of aerial circumnavigation. Although, unlike the Oregon Trail and the real World Flier pilots, there was no risk of dysentery from drinking lagoon water!

Where Did It Go?

Coleman House

If you’ve been watching T/m’s Facebook page, then you know that the Colemans have moved out of their gigantic homestead. But this isn’t just any normal move; after every last item was lovingly packed, it was time to move the house. How do you move a nine-foot tall, seven-foot wide dollhouse?! The same way you would a real house: take it apart piece by piece (and mark each one very well), load it on a truck with a “Oversize Load” sign (ours fit in a U-Haul), and take it to its new location (in our case, temporary storage).

Lucky for us, Julie Denesha with KCUR Kansas City Public Media documented the move: check it out! If you can’t get enough of Coleman House, don’t miss T/m’s spotlight on Antiques Roadshow Monday, April 7 at 7pm CST where Coleman House serves as the backdrop for the appraiser’s analysis of two of our dollhouses.

Dollhouses for You and Me

Bliss Dollhouse and Gottschalk Dollhouse

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, two companies dominated the dollhouse market: the R. Bliss Manufacturing Company of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and the Moritz Gottschalk company of Marienberg, Germany. Both companies were well known for their colorful houses, which sold at a lower price due to the decrease in production costs (thank you mass production!), making the toys available to a wide range of social classes.

This past summer, T/m hosted Antiques Roadshow and appraiser Marshall Martin to examine a Bliss dollhouse and a Gottschalk dollhouse from the museum collection. Catch it on your local PBS Station on Monday April 7 at 7pm CST or stay tuned here for a link to the segment.

Diplomatic Dolls

Miss Shimane Japanese friendship ambassador doll, The Children's Museum of Indianapolis.

Decades before Hello Kitty captured the hearts of Americans, a fleet of Japanese dolls came to America to promote peace and ease cultural tensions. In the 1920s, anti-immigrant sentiments and cultural differences between Japan and America were coming to a head. An American missionary named Sidney Gulick proposed a doll exchange with Japan in order to open an avenue for peaceful communication. In 1927, American school children sent 12,000 “American Blue-Eyed Dolls” to Japan just in time to celebrate Hina Matsuri. Millions of Japanese children were so enthralled with the dolls that they donated money to create dolls to be sent to America, and thus the Japanese Friendship Dolls were born! Each doll represented a different Japanese prefecture, city, or colony and came with beautifully designed accessories such as teapots, parasols, and chests. (T/m is now home to one of these dolls, Miss Fukushima!)

Unfortunately, the diplomacy of the American Blue-Eyed Dolls and the Japanese Friendship Dolls did not last. When World War II broke out years later, dolls from the exchange were considered inappropriate to display, or even treasonous to possess. Many dolls were lost or destroyed. Those that remained safe through the years are now considered highly collectible. See some of them on exhibit in The Japanese Woodblock Print: An Extension of the Impermanent at the Montana Museum of Art & Culture on view now through April 19, 2014.

Photo: Miss Shimane Japanese Friendship Ambassador Doll, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Wikimedia Commons.

There Once Was A Teddy in Africa

Teddy Roosevelt's Adventures in Africa Playset

After being succeeded in office by William Howard Taft, the former president Theodore Roosevelt set out for Africa to hunt big game and collect specimens for the Smithsonian Institution. Known to history as the Smithsonian-Roosevelt African Expedition, the party began their journey 105 years ago this month and included Roosevelt’s son Kermit who served as official photographer, three representatives from the Smithsonian (a retired Army surgeon and field naturalist, and two zoologists), two famous big-game hunters, a wildlife photographer and filmmaker, and several hundred porters and guides. They collected 1,100 specimens, 500 of which were big game; Teddy and Kermit personally collected 17 lions, 11 elephants, and 20 rhinoceros.

Roosevelt’s travels were memorialized in several ways from the silent film Roosevelt in Africa to Scribner’s Magazine’s articles that were later gathered together and published as a book, African Game Tails, in 1909. That same year, Schoenhut Company introduced their tribute to the expedition: Teddy Roosevelt’s Adventures in Africa Playset. Produced until 1912, the set included a doctor, naturalist, taxidermist, and native guides. Some of the playset parts were repurposed from the popular Humpty Dumpy Circus Playset, but the rhinos, zebras, hyenas, gazelles, deer, and gorillas were introduced for the first time. Bet you can’t guess which one is Teddy Roosevelt (hint: he’s carrying a rifle instead of a big stick)!

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