DOLLS HOUSE DOLLS

Miniature homes, furnished with domestic articles and resident inhabitants, both people and animals, have been made for thousands of years. The earliest known examples were found in the Egyptian tombs of the Old Kingdom, created nearly five thousand years ago. These wooden models of servants, furnishings, boats, livestock and pets placed in the Pyramids almost certainly were made for religious purposes.

The earliest known European dollhouses were the baby houses from the 16th century, which consisted of cabinet display cases made up of individual rooms. Dollhouses of this period showed idealized interiors complete with detailed furnishings and accessories. The cabinets were built by hand with architectural details, filled with miniature household items and were solely intended for adults. They were off-limits to children, not because of safety concerns for the child but for the dollhouse.

The earliest "baby house" was ade in 1557-8 for Albert V, Duke of Bavaria. This was popularly known a the Munich Baby House. The term "baby" continued to be used to describe hand-built houses, chiefly in Germany, the Netherlands and Britain until the eighteenth century.

Dolls houses also had another purpose, besides being used as displays for miniatures, they provided an excellent visual aid for servants and young women. They were often used as instructional aids for girls learning domestic skills in the 1600s and 1700s.

Germany produced the most prized dollhouses and doll house miniatures up until World War I. Notable German miniature companies included Märklin, Rock and Graner and others. Their products were not only avidly collected in Central Europe, but regularly exported to Britain and North America. Germany's involvement in WWI seriously impeded both production and export. New manufacturers in other countries arose.

The baby houses of the 17th and 18th centuries, and the toy dollhouses of the 19th and early 20th century rarely had uniform scales, even for the features or contents of any one individual house. Although a number of manufacturers made lines of miniature toy furniture in the 19th century, these products were not to a strict scale.

Children's play dollhouses from most of the 20th and 21st centuries are 1:18 or two third inch scale (where 1 foot is represented by 2/3 of an inch). Common brands include Lundby (Sweden), Renwal, Plasco, Marx, Petite Princess, and T. Cohn (all American) and Caroline's Home, Barton, Dol-Toi and Tri-ang (English). A few brands use 1:16 or 3/4"-scale.

The most common standard for adult collectors is 1:12 scale, also called 1" or one inch scale (where 1 foot is represented by 1 inch.) Among adult collectors there are also smaller scales which are much more common in the United States than in Britain. 1:24 or half inch scale (1 foot is 1/2") was popular in Marx dollhouses in the 1950s but only became widely available in collectible houses after 2002, about the same time that even smaller scales became more popular, like 1:48 or quarter inch scale (1 foot is 1/4") and 1:144 or "dollhouse for a dollhouse" scale.

Miniature dolls to fit these houses come in many forms from simple wooden peg dolls to fine bisque heads.

References:

Dolls' Houses from the V&A Museum of Childhood

Below are some dolls house dolls displayed at the The Museum of London and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

  • Baby House Doll Baby House Doll

    Baby House Doll

    This doll is taken from the 'baby house' originally owned by Lady Anne Blackett. The doll is probably contemporary with the baby house itself. She was manufactured in England or Germany and would probably have been purchased from a catalogue.

    The doll's head, shoulders, forearms, hands and shoes are made of wax. These are attached to a linen torso and legs. Her features have been painted onto her face. Dolls like this one were usually sold undressed so it is likely that the clothes were added by the Blacketts. The doll is wearing a silk dress and turban.

    Courtesy of the Museum of London

  • Dolls' house doll Dolls' house doll

    Dolls' house doll late 1980s to late 1990s

    Ceramic man doll wearing wire spectacles, a checked shirt, brown tie, sleeveless knitted jumper, grey trousers and black shoes. Made by Roma Hopkinson

    Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum London

  • Baby House Doll Baby House Doll

    Baby House Doll c1760-1780

    This doll is taken from the 'baby house' originally owned by Lady Anne Blackett. The doll is probably contemporary with the baby house itself. She was manufactured in England or Germany and would probably have been purchased from a catalogue.

    The doll's head, shoulders, forearms, hands and shoes are made of wax. These are attached to a linen torso and legs. Her features have been painted onto her face. Dolls like this one were usually sold undressed so it is likely that the clothes were added by the Blacketts. The doll is dressed in the typical clothes of a domestic servant in this period. She is wearing a linen dress, apron and tippet.

    Courtesy of the Museum of London

  • Miss Miles' House Miss Miles' House

    Miss Miles' House Dolls House Doll

    Made by Amy Miles when she was in her thirties, this evocative dolls’ house looks back to her childhood and the house where she grew up in Friern Barnet, North London. It was one of the first dolls’ houses to be collected by the V&A, and has been central to the collection ever since. Rather than creating a snapshot of a particular time, Amy Miles included gadgets and inventions popular from the 1850s onwards. The geyser in the bathroom was patented in 1868, but was soon surpassed my more reliable methods of heating water. The telephone in the hall would have appeared after 1876 and domestic electric lights weren’t available until the 1890s. In the dining room sits a tiered white wedding cake - made of real sponge cake and icing. These first appeared at the wedding of Victoria’s son, Prince Leopold, in 1882. Amy Miles (1857 – 1928) grew up in a prosperous Victorian household, overseen by her father, John Miles, who was manager of a book publishers, investor in the New River Company, and active philanthropist. Amy was the youngest of five children, and all the girls were taught at home by governesses.

    The house is a large structure consisting of ten rooms. It originally had an artist's studio in the roof. On the ground level is a child's schoolroom, a small dining room, a kitchen and a pantry. On the next level is a large and elegant drawing room and a recreation room with a large billiard table. The top floor has a nursery, a bedroom, a bathroom and a utility room. A staircase runs through the centre of the house.

    Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum London

  • Toy Doll And Rocking Chair Toy Doll And Rocking Chair

    Toy Doll And Rocking Chair

    Solid china frozen charlotte doll seated in a tinplate rocking chair. The doll has a painted yellow bonnet and blue collar. The rocking chair is spirit painted in blue with a gold interior. This toy was purchasd for one penny (1d) from a London street trader working in the Ludgate Hill area of London on 4th December 1894. The month of December was the busiest time for the penny toy trade as families purchased items as Christmas gifts and 'stocking fillers'.

    A 'frozen Charlotte doll' is a type of china doll produced in the late 19th and early 20th century. The dolls were moulded from a single piece of china and did not have movable limbs. The name was taken from an American folk song which tells the story of a young girl named Charlotte who froze to death when she refused to wrap up well on a sleigh ride. The smallest versions of these dolls were used as charms in Christmas puddings or in children's dolls houses.

    Courtesy of the Museum of London

  • Jennys Home Dolls House Doll Jennys Home Dolls House Doll

    Jennys Home Dolls House Doll

    The Jennys Home modular dolls' house system was produced in the 1960s in conjunction with Homes & Gardens Magazine. Made by Tri-ang, the individual sets allowed young girls to slowly build up a collection of rooms and funiture to create almost any design of their choice. A system that could be turned from an apartment block to a bed-sit, Jennys Home was a highly flexible, modern toy that helped to inspire future home makers.

    Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum

  • Bisque dolls house doll, wearing a blue silk dress; made in Germany, 1900 Bisque dolls house doll, wearing a blue silk dress; made in Germany, 1900

    Bisque dolls house doll, wearing a blue silk dress; made in Germany, 1900

    China doll with yellow hair in two long plaits. Dressed in blue silk, with a long trained dress and short bolero, both trimmed with white lace. Round the neck is hung a gilt heart. Petticoat of white cotton, under petticoat of red flannel, scalloped in white cotton. Drawers of lace; blue button boots painted on.

    Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum

  • Plastic Dolls House Doll Plastic Dolls House Doll

    Plastic Dolls House Doll

    Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum