Small Talk Tag: Victorian

Annie Horatia’s Dollhouse Dolls

London Dollhouse

While we at The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures own Annie Horatia Jones’s dollhouse, another important aspect of her childhood play lives in her city of origin at the London Metropolitan Archives. In 1886, Annie’s aunt Tamazine Billings gave her ten dolls for her dollhouse. Each doll represented a member of her family and household. Lucky for us, Aunt Tamazine sewed handwritten cloth labels with each family member’s name onto the doll that represented them.

As you would probably guess, the tallest doll is Annie’s father, Sir Horace Jones. However, the fact that the doll is a full two inches taller than the other dolls in the group says more about Victorian attitudes towards personal status within the family then Jones’s height. The Victorian father was the head of the household, thus the extra two inches. The dolls’ clothing is another interesting look back at 19th-century London!

Annie Horatia’s Dollhouse Details

Annie Horatia Jones

While toy furniture could be purchased, little girls like Annie Horatia Jones also enjoyed adding some DIY charm to their dollhouses with a touch of imagination and a pinch of sewing skills. Annie’s finesse with a needle is undeniable in the geometric rugs she made for her rooms. And we love the decoupage paper on the red nursery walls!

Although there are no doors from the hallway to the rooms, that didn’t stop Annie from getting a baby walker, a bed (affectionately coined the “broken heart bed” by T/m staff), a sewing basket, and a water cistern into her house’s rooms.

Annie Horatia’s Dollhouse History

Annie Horatia Jones

In the 19th century, affluent parents commissioned dollhouses for their daughters (I mean, they couldn’t exactly go to the closest Toys ‘R Us). This circa 1860 dollhouse was the centerpiece of the privileged childhood of Annie Horatia Jones (1876-1969). Annie was the daughter of Sir Horace Jones, a notable 19th century English architect who served as architect and surveyor for the city of London (he is responsible for the design of the iconic Tower Bridge).

Think Annie’s dollhouse resembles a piece of furniture in your home? If you said a cabinet or bookcase, you would be correct! Part of this stately cabinet-style dollhouse originally belonged to Annie’s mother, Lady Ann Jones. When it was Annie’s turn to learn adult roles through play, an additional wing and wheeled base were added to the dollhouse (see the line between old and new to the left of the center of the house). Stay tuned to learn how Annie added her own personal touches.

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!

Page 2 of 612345...Last »