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Dollhouse Furniture: Through the Ages

Dollhouse furniture and other miniature items date as far back as the Egyptians. In the tombs of Egypt five thousand years ago were found miniatures of home furnishings, and other trappings of life of the well to do in Egypt. Since then almost every culture has enjoyed miniatures and miniature furnishings.

16th century dollhouse furniture
In the 16th century in Europe, dollhouse furniture was built in exacting detail by the finest craftsmen of the time. The rooms displayed in the dollhouses or baby houses as they were called, were elegant and every piece of dollhouse furniture was in itself a work of art. We may not have many of the original furnishings of the owner’s homes but we can imagine how they looked from what has been handed down in the décor of the dollhouses. No detail was too small. There were miniatures of just about everything giving us a real glimpse into the lives of the wealthy and titled of the sixteenth century. These dollhouses and their furnishings were not children’s toys but collectible art.

Salesman Samples
Miniatures were also created for use by traveling tradesmen who hawked their wares across Europe and the United States. The real items were too heavy to be trekked around so miniature furniture and other items were the sales catalogs of the day. These miniatures that were used to sell full size items are prized today as collectibles. Just about everything that could be sold were crafted meticulously in a tradesman sample so that the buyer could see what the real size would look like. The United States Patent Office also helped in the development of miniature samples as it required in 1790 that a model accompany each invention that was presented for a patent. Today you can find tradesmen samples of brass bed pans, rope beds, easels, stoves, liquor bottles, molds, spinning wheels, fireplaces, windmills, tools, and washing machines. The scale of the salesman’s samples is generally slightly larger than traditional dollhouse furniture though it has often been mistaken for toys. Again the legacy of the salesman’s sample wares tells us the history of the time through the surviving pieces. Salesman samples and those made for the patent office in the United States were made primarily between the late 1700’s up until the early 1940’s.

Mass produced dollhouse furniture
The beginnings of the Industrial Revolution brought mass production of many items and this included dollhouses and dollhouse furniture. Both dollhouses and dollhouse furniture moved into the province of children’s toys and became affordable to almost every home. However, artisans and craftspeople around the world continued to produce miniatures that followed in the footsteps of the earlier craftsmen of the 16th century. Miniatures in both furniture and buildings have always been of interest to the artist.

Renwal & Marx early plastic dollhouse furniture
The 1940’s and 1950’s found companies like Renwal and Marx making dollhouse furnishings out of plastic for the first time. The furniture was molded out of hard plastics or some were made from elastomers or flexible plastics. The style of the furniture is pure modern classic style that is so popular in real homes today. These collectable dollhouse furniture items can still be found today in antique shops and on Ebay.

Dollhouse furniture today
Today, dollhouse furniture is available in all sorts of scales and at every price point. There is dollhouse furniture that is perfect for children – sturdy and easy to handle. You can find dollhouse furniture to fit almost any décor including Early American, European reproductions, Victorian, Classic modern, and furniture fit for a princess. Through it all the one of a kind dollhouse miniatures are still being produced by artisans and crafts people in the tradition of the early craftsmen producing miniature handcrafted works of art.

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