Mary Harris Francis (1927-2005)
A child at heart, Mary Harris Francis acquired her first antique dollhouse in 1974. When it arrived, delivered in a large crate to the driveway of the family home, she assured her husband she would “never need another.” These proved to be famous last words, as the dollhouse only whetted her appetite for more.
Francis, a former teacher, never lost the connection she felt to her own childhood. As a collector, she was guided by her sense of playfulness and was most attracted to those objects that had been handmade and well-loved.
When Francis co-founded T/m, community members began to approach her with their precious childhood artifacts. Her curatorial acumen allowed her to assemble the largest toy collection in the Midwest. Many of the toys in the collection retain their original provenance, and these stories enhance our understanding of their historical importance.
Francis was a member of the Antique Toy Collectors of America (ATCA) and the United Federation of Doll Clubs (UFDC). A board member of the Francis Family Foundation, she founded and funded the Child Development Institute at Penn Valley Community College, a program dedicated to the training of childcare providers.
She passed away in 2005 and is remembered for her legacy of preservation, her enthusiastic collection methods, and her infectious laugh.