Small Talk / Toys

Steeped in History: A Tea Party Souvenir

tea party souvenir

You may remember the Emery Bird Thayer Department Store (E.B.T.) from our posts about the Josephine Bird Dollhouse here on Small Talk. The store on Petticoat Lane in downtown Kansas City promised that, “this great store will be here every day, striving to please you with reliable merchandise combined with excellent service.” The store was stocked by buyers who traveled throughout Europe and Asia searching for goods to sell.

Just like many old department stores, E.B.T. had an elaborate tearoom housed in the large mezzanine. In the tearoom the store hosted tea parties for little girls and their dolls. At the end of the party, each girl took home a souvenir cup and saucer. The department store’s tearoom closed shortly after the end of World War II, but not before handing out this 1914 tea party souvenir set made by Royal Bayreuth in Bavaria.  Today, there are several places you can still take your doll for tea and Royal Bayreuth is still making china after more than 200 years. We’ll have more insight into another Royal Bayreuth tea set lined up for Small Talk in the coming months; stick around!

The Most Fashionable Doll

georgian dolls

Meet Georgiana, the oldest doll in T/m’s collection. Affectionately named for the king on the throne when she was born circa 1750 (England’s King George II), Georgiana has a carved and turned wooden body with glass eyes, and a brown human hair wig.

She doesn’t look like a cuddly doll, now does she? That’s mainly because we believe she wasn’t meant to be played with! Georgiana was likely used to model the latest fashions in a dressmaker’s shop. Instead of making a large dress that lacked a buyer, the dressmaker would make a doll-sized version for Georgiana. Interested patrons would order a similar dress perfectly sized to their human proportions.

Thus, Georgiana is dressed to the nines with all her original clothing: shift, corset, quilted petticoat, elliptical hoop, embroidered skirt, overdress, knit wool stockings, shoes, and a beaded necklace. Now that’s a lot of layers!

Steeped in History: The Montereau Tea Set

montereau pottery

Tea time, anyone? Children’s toy dishes and tea sets can be found in a variety of materials, from wood and tin to porcelain and plastic. When porcelain became widespread in the 19th century due to technological and scientific advances, factories began producing toy tea sets and doll accessories. Tea sets became especially popular in the mid-to-late 1800s when Queen Victoria popularized “taking tea.”

Due to the lack of documentation, it is often hard to track the origin of these sets. Lucky for us, this child-sized set in T/m’s collection is marked “Montereau” and “LL,” indicating the set originates from a Montereau pottery shop in the Oise region of France. The yellow-glazed earthenware has crisp, black transfer patterns and hand painted rims. We bet a little girl saved this “good china” for a special occasion.

Jumping for Joy

raggy doodle paratrooper doll

Parachute troopers played a decisive role in World War II. The D-Day invasion, which led to the end of the war, began with an attack by American parachute troopers. With their parachute, the troopers carried between 90-120 pounds on their back. They were jumping into unknown territory so they had to be ready for anything!

Thus, it comes as no surprise that the Prager and Rueben Company began making parachute trooper toys. The brown cloth Raggy-Doodle U.S. Paratrooper had a sewn-on aviator’s helmet and goggles. His painted aviation harness kept his heavy backpack and parachute in place. As you can imagine, T/m’s parachute trooper probably had many an adventure jumping out of bedroom windows, and off of tall trees, or maybe the occasional roof. Geronimo!

A Natural Talent: Beth Freeman-Kane

Beth Freeman-Kane

From prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux and John James Audubon’s catalogue of birds to dynamic National Geographic wildlife photographs, humans have long been fascinated with depicting the natural world. South African miniature artist Beth Freeman-Kane is certainly no different, although her work is on a much smaller scale!

Freeman-Kane has been interested in creating miniatures since she was young- so much so that some of her teachers tried to correct her inclination for small work. It wasn’t until adulthood that she discovered the art form of fine-scale miniatures. Since then, nature has been her muse. Why attempt to recreate complex feather patterns, petal structures and fur markings in miniature? She says, “I am a believer in the significance of small things, and have been impressed by the power in miniatures to compel one to stop, cross the floor and take a closer look … In the same way, we need to stop and take a closer look to appreciate the birds and smaller creatures around us.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves! Check back soon for a “closer look” at her work.

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