Miniature room boxes and dioramas have always fascinated viewers but it takes a family to make a house a home and so it is with dollhouses. Whether precise miniature reproductions or whimsical interpretations on a small scale, a dollhouse really comes to life with the addition of dolls to inhabit it.
In the 18th and 19th century small versions of dolls of wax, wood, china or papier mache were used to inhabit the dollhouses and miniature curio cabinets of the day. Scales varied considerably and certain amount of imagination was sometimes needed to accept the scenes portrayed.
By the mid 19th century the scale of dollhouses started to become more regular with 1.5″ to 1′, 1″ to1′ and .75″ to 1′ being made. Toward the 3rd quarter of the 19th century these popular scales allowed doll manufacturers to offer individual and family groupings of dolls especially made for dollhouses. These dolls ranged from about 5 inches to 9 inches, scale depending.
By the late Victorian era bisque dollhouse dolls could be had in a wide range of styles, portraying adults, children and numerous service occupations such as maids, cooks and chauffeurs. The vast majority of these dolls were made in Germany and had bisque shoulder-heads on cloth bodies with bisque lower arms and legs. All bisque dolls were often made to portray dollhouse children.
Companies such as Simon & Halbig, Kestner, Hertwig made heads and entire dolls. Other smaller ventures such as Heinrich Schmuckler, Welsch & Co., Schindhelm & Knauer, and Friedmann & Ohnstein assembled and costumed dollhouse dolls (among other styles of dolls) which had heads purchased from other factories.
In the 1920s and 30s dollhouse dolls kept pace with changing styles and activities. Bobbed hair styles and modern costumes were used and special interest characters such as aviators and motorists were made.
Bisque dolls were not
In 1917 a woman named Maragrete Cohn started making a line of cloth dollhouse dolls from her home in Berlin, Germany. These dolls had yarn-wrapped wire-armature bodies with metal feet and cloth faces with embroidered features and hair. By 1920 Cohn was using the name Grecon for her doll line. After moving to London in 1936 she continued her dollhouse doll business up until the 1980s.
By the 1930s there were composition headed dollhouse dolls such as those made in Germany by Canzler and Hoffmann under the tradename Caho. These too employed a wrapped-armature style of body and had lead hands and feet. After WWII Canzler moved from East Germany to West Germany, eventually settling in Coburg. He changed the company name to Caco and began using plastic heads, hands and feet for their dolls to meet new US import regulations against using lead in children’s toys. Canzler sold the company in the 1970s and the dolls were continued to be made by the new owners into the 1980s.
American companies such as Effanbee offered composition dollhouse dolls called Wee Patsy. Effanbee would go on to offer hard plastic dollhouse families in the 1950s.
Other dollhouse dolls of the late 1930s included German bisque and painted- bisque dolls.
Shortly after the end of WWII Sheila and Charles Flagg of Jamaica Palin, Massachusetts opened the Flagg Doll Co. Their concept for bendable dolls came to being in their soft vinyl dolls which had internal wire armatures. Their line included dollhouse families which were scaled to fit the popular Masonite and metal dollhouses of the late 1940s and 1950s.
Today dollhouse dolls of a wide range of materials are being made by big companies and small artist concerns providing any character imaginable to bring life to the dollhouses of children and collectors alike.
Author – Linda Edward
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