Small Talk / Toys

Finely Furnished: The Tynietoy Company

Tynietoy

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!

Seeing Double: Dining in a Manor

Miniature dining room furniture

Like the rest of Twin Manors, the dining room took inspiration from 18th century homes: Wilton-on-the-James (c. 1753 in Virginia) and Wentworth-Gardner House (c. 1760 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire). The paneling on the back wall contains approximately 250 pieces of wood. Look closely and you can see the hidden doorway leading to the pantry in the back hallway on the left wall.

Not to be outdone for the holidays, Twin Manors has historically accurate Christmas decorations. Every holiday season the T/m staff decks the manor’s halls with swags and fruit arrangements (well, not real fruit… that wouldn’t be great for the art). The dining room chandelier is replaced with a Christmas chandelier and a festive bonbon centerpiece adorns the table along with a Williamsburg pineapple centerpiece.

A Pistol from the (Past) Future

Buck Rogers Space Pistol

In 1928, the world was introduced to Buck Rogers, a World War I hero who spent 500 years in a suspended state after exposure to radioactive gas. Rogers awoke as a full-fledged superhero equipped with a futuristic weapon. As his popularity grew, Rogers’s adventures were chronicled in comic books and a radio show.

First sold in 1934, the Buck Rogers XZ-31Rocket Pistol by Daisy Manufacturing Company was one of the first “space guns” ever produced. Its futuristic shape and distinctive lines made it the grandfather of rayguns. The gun had a distinctive “zap” sound and retailed for 50 cents. When it was first offered in Macy’s Department Store, over 2,000 people stood in line to get one!

Lovely Lilli

Bild Lilli Doll

You might recognize this blonde bombshell from somewhere … could it be one of Barbie’s distant relatives (remember Francie?) or maybe one of her many friends? Well, sort of. This 11 ½ inch tall beauty is (unofficially) the inspiration for the first Barbie doll, released in 1959.

Bild Lilli doll is based on a 1950s comic strip character that appeared in the Hamburg, Germany tabloid Bild-Zeitung. In the comic, Lilli is a sassy secretary who uses her … uh … charm to get what she wants. In 1955, Lilli’s creator, cartoonist Reinhard Beuthien decided to market Lilli as a doll. She was sold in a few toy stores and cigar shops in Europe, but was likely more of a novelty. Ruth Handler, the creator of Barbie, stumbled across Bild Lilli on a trip to Germany in 1956, and brought a few dolls back with her. After Barbie’s huge success in the early 1960s, Mattel purchased the rights to Bild Lilli and the rest is history!

Through Thick and Tin

Mechanical Tin Toys

Who doesn’t love fresh frog legs?! This chicken and goose that make up this pull toy sure can’t seem to share! From the mid-19th century until World War I, cheaply mass produced tin toys known as “penny toys” were very popular. In the years following the Great War, however, competition in the market increased and toys became larger and more technologically complex in order to keep children’s attention.

T/m’s circa 1930 Gebruder Einfalt Chicken and Goose Pull Toy is an example of one such company’s transition to larger tin toys. Nuremburg’s Gebruder Einfalt (later Technofix) was founded in 1922 by two brothers, Georg and Johann. While many of Gebruder Einfalt’s early toys were erratic wind-up toys and wheeled pull toys, they eventually found their niche making racecars, trains and other transportation toys that reflected changing technology.

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