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The Dolls’ House at the National Museum of History

There is a dollhouse that resides as a permanent exhibit in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History that was the lifetime project of librarian, Faith Bradford, who became the first woman to head up a division of the Library of Congress. Located on the first floor of the Museum in the West Wing, the dollhouse is made up of twenty three rooms featuring the family of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Doll, with their ten children, five servants and assorted pets. The home is meant to depict a home from the 1900’s of a fairly wealthy American family. The decorations and furniture include more than 1,300 items that are representative of the time including linens and toys and household items. It took Ms. Bradford twenty five years to create it during which she faithfully recorded her creation in a series of notebooks. In 1951, Ms. Bradford donated the dollhouse to the National Museum of American History where it resides.
Until her death in 1970, Faith Bradford would return on a regular basis to the museum to houseclean the dollhouse and decorate it for holidays. The dollhouse is regular draw for the museum and it is not unusual to see children three and four deep around the house.

The scale of the dollhouse is the popular one inch to one foot scale and it stands five stories high. The miniature collections are items that Faith Bradford found in travels, or had created or received as gifts during the period of 1887 and 1970. It is the perfect depiction of the life of a wealthy family in the 1900s. The dollhouse includes a parlor, a butler’s pantry, nurseries, a luggage room, an attic and handcrafted ceramic bathtubs.
The dollhouse has been immortalized in a book about the miniature collection by the curator of the National Museum of American History, William L. Bird. The book, America’s Dollhouse refers to the dollhouse created by Bradford as one of the museum’s most loved and popular attractions. Mr. Bird used Bradford’s notes of how she created the dollhouse and her fully crafted descriptions of the dollhouse family in his development of the book. The father in the dollhouse family, Peter Doll, is described as thirty five years old, successful partially due to inherited money, well regarded in his community and by his family. He is also a great lover of books which can be seen in his miniature library. All of the family is described in her notes including the goldfish that were named Goldie, Wiggle and Dart.

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