Small Talk Tag: Victorian

Eleanor’s Fashionable Friend

French Fashion Doll.

In addition to teaching children necessary grown-up skills, dolls and toys have imagination-fueled stories all their own. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to hear toys’ playtime stories and special adventures toys had from the grown-ups who loved them. Other times, we have to do a little digging. This bisque fashion doll, for example, came to T/m with a few clues from her Victorian past.

With the help of previous her owners’ records, we know that this circa-1860 doll was owned by a girl in Buffalo, New York, named Eleanor Crocker. Nicknamed “Nellie,” the doll was passed down through several generations of Eleanor’s descendants before she became part of the museum’s collection. According to family lore, Nellie was brought back from France by Eleanor’s uncle Dexter as a gift. Through the magic of modern technology, we’ve been able to track down the family’s historical records including Dexter’s passport applications dating to the 1860s! While we may never know the exact playtime parties Nellie attended, we do know that Eleanor took excellent care of her.

Let’s Play House

dollhouse exhibit

The dollhouse is one of the most popular and enduring toys of all time. Why you ask? Because it fulfills so many needs: creativity, invention, psychological exploration, and self-discovery. Let’s Play House explores the collection’s dollhouses and the little girls that played with them, including Mamie Burt and Josephine Bird. These nineteenth-century homes are from the great age of dollhouses. During this period, affluent parents commissioned the houses as a training tool for their daughters’ future roles as wives, mothers, and household managers. That’s some big shoes to fill!

By the twentieth century, dollhouse play focused more on imagination than household management (thank goodness!). The museum’s Tynietoy dollhouse is now on display with recent acquisitions to the collection, including a 1974 Fisher-Price Play Family “A” Frame and a 1950s Louis Marx and Company “L” Shaped Ranch Dollhouse complete with a swimming pool!

Give a Hoot, Save Your Loot!

cast iron banks

While a piggy may be the most recognizable type of bank, cast iron banks in all shapes and figures were favored in the 19th century. Mechanical banks made the act of saving fun! These banks deposited coins by some sort of mechanical process… think humans or animals kicking, jumping, dancing, or doing handstands!

Mechanical banks were first manufactured in the late 1800s as the Industrial Revolution created a middle class that heralded the importance of earning and saving money combined with tinkerers of the Victorian Era experimenting with springs and windup devices. J.H. Bowen patented this toy “money box” in 1880. The financially savvy would place a coin on the branch. When a lever on the back of the bank is pressed, the owl’s head rotates and the coin gets deposited inside.

The Walls of 17 Winter Street

antique dollhouse wallpaper

Like many young ladies near the turn of the century, Mamie Burt learned household management as she decorated and played with the dolls (and animals) that lived inside her dollhouse. Many of the rooms, from the music room to the hallway, are decorated with original wallpaper and gold cornices. Most likely Mamie used leftover pieces of real wallpaper to decorate her dollhouse. We like to imagine that her dollhouse looked a lot like the rooms in her real house.

Look on the far left and you’ll see that the parlor even has a pocket door! Pocket doors were common in Victorian homes to close off sitting rooms and dens, and a practical solution for a dollhouse where there is no room for the swing of a hinged door.

17 Winter Street’s Kitchen

vintage dollhouse kitchen

Over time, dollhouse contents can get separated from their original dollhouse. While we try our best at T/m to play a successful game of “Are You My Mother?,” we aren’t always victorious. So, we tried our best to locate contents that were representative of the furnishings that Mamie Burt may have used in her dollhouse.

Mamie’s kitchen was already quite spectacular with a dry sink, faux painted cabinets, a brick hearth, and a trough for mixing bread dough. The contents chosen to furnish Mamie’s house included what we think is a spectacular set of food (although probably not the tastiest). Using a lot of imagination, some little boy or girl designed this spread using some very pretty rocks. Yes, you read that right, rocks! We’d guess it’s a feast of ham with a side of lettuce and some delicacy with a drool-worthy crust garnished with capers. But, that’s just what our imagination would say!

Page 1 of 41234