Small Talk

Meet Our Friendship Doll

Mrs F

As part of the 1927 international doll exchange between the U.S. and Japan, 58 Japanese dolls traveled to the U.S., and were distributed coast to coast amongst museums and public venues. On a diplomatic mission to promote peace and understanding between the two countries, these ichimatsu ningyo became known as the Japanese Friendship Dolls.

Just who were they? Let us introduce you… each doll represented a different Japanese city, prefecture or territory. Expertly designed and constructed by Japanese artists, the dolls stand 32” high, have wigs of human hair, and glass eyes. Each had her own set of accessories, including a traditional tea set, travel trunk, and a richly styled kimono. Look closely at each doll’s kimono to find a unique mon, or crest, repeated in the pattern (sort of like the Houses at Hogwarts)!

The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures is home to Miss Fukushima, one of the Friendship Dolls representing a Japanese prefecture. We’re proud to have “Miss F.” here at the museum, as she is one of the most intact of the original 1927 group. Over 40 of Miss Fukushima’s original accessories came with her to T/m including two tea sets, a sewing kit, and even a booklet entitled “Japanese Children and Dolls’ Tea-service.”

Strike a Pose

French Fashion Dolls

While we think all of our dolls are quite fashionable, a special set of Parisian dolls take the cake! Dating from 1900 to 1917, the dolls produced by Mesdames Louise Lafitte and Augusta Désirat represent different fashions and themes from “nurse” to “theatre.” The dolls were sold in the United States at the Gimbels department store as “style mannequins.”

The dolls’ bodies are wire armatures with wax heads and simple painted features to guarantee that the clothes and accessories are the star! And star they do; the two sisters styled their dolls with only the finest materials: ostrich feathers, fur, velvet, mohair, lace, and silk. Each doll strikes a pose on a round wood base that is often marked with a year, signature, and stamp (which really helps us out here at T/m!). Whether standing or sitting on a chair or cushion, these ladies are runway ready.

The Toy King

Marx Motorcycle Delivery

While The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures displays generations of childhood through dolls, dollhouses, trains, soldiers, teddy bears, and much more, other museums focus on just one type of toy or toy company. The Marx Toy Museum in Moundsville, West Virginia, has the largest display of toys from Louis Marx and Company in the world; that’s over six decades of toys!

The museum details not only the toys, but the history and stories of Louis Marx, described as “The Toy King” on a 1955 Time magazine cover; the company he founded in 1919; and the factory workers employed in his three Pennsylvania and West Virginia facilities. Marx branded his toys with his name and was the first inductee to the Toy Industry Hall of Fame where his plaque proclaims him “The Henry Ford of the Toy Industry.” No wonder he has his own museum!

In the 1950s, the company was the largest toy manufacturer in the world. Don’t think you can name a Marx toy? Think again! Although the name is now largely forgotten (Marx sold the company in 1972), the company developed Rock’em Sock’em Robots and the Big Wheel tricycle. The toys bore the slogan, “One of the many Marx toys, have you all of them?” We sure know one place that does: the Marx Toy Museum!

Photo: Motorcycle Delivery, Marx USA 1950s. Wikimedia Commons.

Happy or Haunted?

Versailles_MulvaneyRogers

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher who lived from 535-475 BC got it right: the only thing constant is change. Whether bustling with people or sparsely populated (or even abandoned), places change: Paris  looks much different than it did 100 years ago; Colorado isn’t the same place it was in 1870. Although they are recreating an existing piece, when miniature artists begin a new project they get to determine the atmosphere: is it 1472 with the original occupants in residence or is it the present day? Is the sun shining at high noon or preparing to set for the evening?

Harry Smith, and Kevin Mulvany and Susie Rogers have two very different interpretations of the Palace of Versailles. Smith’s Louis XV study appears as though King Louis XV just stepped out for an afternoon stroll in the delightful gardens. Mulvany and Rogers’s deserted garden pavilion in a long-ago abandoned Versailles is filled with clouded glass, tattered remnants of history, and a foreboding sense of better days gone by. The artists used artistic details to convey two very different, but very wonderful, atmospheres! The artists used artistic details to convey two very different, but very wonderful, atmospheres!

Photo courtesy of Mulvany and Rogers.

The Ghosts of Versailles

Ghosts of Versailles

Miniature artists are in the business of re-creation. Kevin Mulvany and Susie Rogers re-create historically significant European and North American buildings and their interiors. But they aren’t just in the business of re-creating walls, moldings, and mortise and tenon joints; they aim to recreate atmosphere. And when you’re talking about buildings and interiors that are hundreds of years old, the atmosphere choices are endless. Mulvany and Rogers design their interiors to feel as though someone—or some  ghost—has just left the room.

With the help of young filmmakers Max Mulvany and Sam Vincent of Surrealist Studios, the miniature artists brought to life their deserted Versailles garden pavilion to explore the effects of the slow, relentless passage of time on a once grand building. Check out The Ghosts of Versailles.

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