Small Talk Tag: Mary Harris Francis

Happy Birthday to Us!

national museum toys miniatures kansas city mo

Thirty-one was a big year for the museum, and we are confident that thirty-two will be even bigger! Although the museum didn’t get married (that’s just silly talk, institutions can’t get married), we did legally change our name to The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures. The name change reflects the quality and scope of the collection and the future direction of the museum’s exhibits, programming, and research.

During our thirty-second year, we’ll be re-opening The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures with new exhibits, including a brand new museum introduction and a two-story toy sculpture in the museum lobby. We’re pretty excited and we hope you are too. Stay tuned here, and on Pinterest and Facebook for sneak peeks as the progress continues!

A Dollhouse Mystery

New Rochelle Mystery Dollhouse

Much of T/m’s collection of over 46,000 toys was amassed by co-founder Mary Harris Francis. With an affinity for play, she began collecting dollhouses in the 1970s, starting with the New Rochelle Mystery House. Little did she know that within a few years she would have enough dollhouses and toys to open a museum!

This stately 12 room dollhouse gets its name from its place of origin- New Rochelle, New York. What exactly is so “mysterious” about it? The term mystery house was coined by dollhouse historian Flora Gill Jacobs to describe dollhouses with unknown origins, many of which were handmade. That’s exactly the case with the New Rochelle Mystery House. While similar dollhouses have been spotted in late 19th century F.A.O. Schwarz catalogs, the painted number “1074” above the door suggests that it was custom made for a little girl who lived at that same address number. Stay tuned for more mysterious dollhouse details…

Happy Birthday Toy and Miniature Museum

Museum Grand Opening 1982

Who didn’t love “show and tell?!” Bringing a prized baseball card or pet hamster to share with classmates gave us that warm, fuzzy feeling that we now know as pride and happiness. We’re guessing that’s exactly what museum cofounders Mary Harris Francis (second from the left) and Barbara Marshall (first from the left) felt when they opened the Toy and Miniature Museum this week in 1982.

Both collected small things: Francis coveted antique toys, imperfect in scale and well-loved. Marshall sought artfully-crafted, fine-scale miniatures. After years of acquiring, they opened the museum in the Tureman mansion on the University of Missouri- Kansas City campus in order to share their vast collections.

Since then, the Toy and Miniature Museum has expanded twice, received donations from over 2,000 individuals, broken a Guinness World Record, and become a local treasure. As we transition to The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, we look forward to a future filled with “show and tell.”