Small Talk Tag: Victorian

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!

17 Winter Street

Victorian era dollhouse

Whether it was a big, shiny bicycle or a coveted baby doll, some of the most memorable childhood toys were received at Christmas time. This dollhouse is no exception. A little girl named Mamie Burt found this dollhouse under (or perhaps near) her Christmas tree in 1875. We don’t know much about Mamie, but we can figure out a little bit about her from her dollhouse.

Based on its construction and size, the dollhouse looks to be the work of a cabinetmaker. The front of the dollhouse is removable and the front door includes a street address: 17 Winter Street. More than likely, Mamie’s parents were members of the upper class and commissioned this dollhouse for her. The furniture Mamie played with may be gone, but the house is full of interesting architectural details. Check back here at Small Talk soon for more!

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