The Mice Come to Tea

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Gussie is pleased with the new complete antique Staffordshire tea set in Dresden Flowers which is a different blank from the little sepia Dresden Flowers pot featured in an earlier post. She is also surpressing a giggle about the wee mice on the cake plate.

After showing all the little children’s Staffordshire dishes and tea pots, it is High Tea time to serve the tea and cakes! The girls have been patiently waiting to try out the esteemed recipe for Spiced Mice Butter Cookies flavored with cinnamon, allspice, and cardamon. The cookies certainly did not disappoint, thought the cats could not be interested enough to pose for a photo at tea.

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Brighde places ears on the little mice who have been egg-washed. Some have raisin-bit eyes already, and they await their chow mein noodle tails.

We made one batch at the regular tablespoon size, then we made teaspoon sized doll mice.

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Edith watches over the newly baked and cooling mice so they don’t scamper all over the kitchen.

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Brighde shows the full sized mice on a ruby red plate.

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Would you like another mouse with your tea?

The recipe for Dita Von Teese’ Spice Mice Cookies was published in InStyle magazine with her interview a number of years ago. These little mice seem to be a popular blog topic, so rather than write out the recipe once more, I will share another blog post where you can find it:  Whipped for Spice Mice Cookies. These are melt-in-your-mouth butter cookies with the perfect mild exotic cardamon flavor to make them unusually enticing. And you’ve never seen anything so adorable for the doll’s tea time!

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A cozy, spicy November to you, your dolls, and your mice.

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Please Come to Tea, Part 2: Little Toy Dishes

Antique Photo girl with big hair bow toy tea with bisque doll

Little child-sized and toy dishes were made in abundance in England’s Staffordshire district potteries, especially throughout the 19th century. Staffordshire, which is a district of six towns on the western edge of England near Wales, was well suited to the pottery industry because of the ready availability of clay, salt, lead, and coal. As with Thuringia (Germany) being a center of toymaking before the advent of the china dolls made there, Staffordshire made pottery before the advent of porcelain. It was a center for pottery production since the early 17th century, noted for reddish brown wares. In 1720, potter John Astbury discovered that adding heated flint to the clay produced a more desirable lighter clay known as creamware. Soon after this discovery, beautiful English made pottery began to grace the tables of well-to-do families in England and America. Of course, modifications to the pottery continued to improve and add variations from soft paste or semi-porcelain, to ironstone and fine bone china.

Antique feather edge and creamware shards

18th century creamware and feather edge shards

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The two little 3″ Leeds feather edged plates, circa 1790-1800

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This tiny cup, saucer, and teapot are all hand painted. Though not part of the same set, the painting and color are similar enough on both that they display well together. The London style handleless cup and deep dish saucer date to 1810. The cup is only 1 5/8″ tall. The pot is pearlware dating to about 1820. It has the characteristic ball shape, raised rim, slightly curved spout, and plain handle of early English teapots.  It is 4″ tall.

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This photo shows the size of these little dishes, and how they display with an antique china doll. Moira is a stout 19″ tall. Her hair style is a molded snood. She is planning to have tea at home with no guests–she is wearing her morning dress with tiny waived braid (rickrack) trim.

Thanks to the Children

Children’s and toy dishes were made alongside those created for adults. The play dishes, then as now, were a whimsy that delighted adults as well as children. Dinner and tea sets were charming gifts for children from parents, grandparents, and adoring aunts and uncles. And so, we can thank these wealthy and merchant class children for the little dishes that have been cherished, and those that have made it through well preserved (or not), and passed down through time to become available to us, as admirers and collectors in our time.

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Two sugar boxes or bowls. First is a beige rectangular one with an Adam Buck transfer from about 1820. The lid is missing its finial, and is actually the matching teapot lid, which was the same size-it has a steam hole in the opposite side. Second is a circa 1835 hand painted bowl with pink luster trim. Both are small (doll sized)  at about 2 1/2″ tall.

The poor children, though, deserve just as much, if not more, thanks for our little whimsies. Poor children have always had to work just as soon as their parents could find employment for them, and the Staffordshire potteries did offer employment for many children throughout the 19th century. Children as young as five or six years could fetch, carry, prepare raw materials, and provide power for the few machines that potters used. Many children at age eight to ten were working 72 hour weeks to the detriment of their health and education. At age 14, most children working in potteries became apprenticed to a particular trade-thrower, presser, transferer, or paintress. In 1840 Parliamentary inquiries were made into the state of children employed in mines and factories, leading to child labor laws.

Applying transfers

Preparing plates for transfers which were applied on tissue paper

 

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Two sugar bowls dating 1835-1840 have light blue transfers. The lids for both have not survived. These bowls without the lids measure 3″ tall by 4″ wide, and 2 1/2″ tall by 5″ wide.

To Teach, to Play, to Cherish

With so much to teach the young ones in the way of ettiquette, it was inevitable for child sized and toy tea and dinner sets to become more readily available. Children learned rituals and manners by having dinner or tea parties with their peers or by serving their dolls.

 

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Girl with a Goat is a pattern dating 1860 to 1870. Notice the fancy handle on the cup. This transfer is a pleasant forest green. The set was also made in red and a lovely flow blue, and I saw one for sale in an amazing mulberry color. It is a child sized set with the saucer being 5″ in diameter.

The 1860’s marked the start of mass production of toy dishes. After this time, parents could be more generous with their children with gift giving. An 1890 Butler Brothers catalog is evidence that there were toy sets available for the taste and means of every family. Children’s tea sets were available in price from five cents to five dollars. By studying the quality of sets we find today, we can guess which ones were at which end of this spectrum!

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This doll “house” with the 8″ Ginny and Muffy dolls always photographs dark. You can see the two Fishers plates on their shelf. Barely over 2″ across, one is red and one is blue. Below is a slightly larger plate with a blue floral transfer.

Transferware became the decoration of choice for English pottery after its development in the second half of the 18th century. Early designs were based on Chinese designs, called Chinoiserie. Early transferware was blue because only underglaze cobalt blue could withstand the heat of the glost ovens. Lead oxide gave wares the characteristic depth of color that made them so successful.

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Examples of early blue transfers, circa 1830 to 1840. The Kite Flyer plate on the stand to the right is a favorite colonial scene. The other scenic transfer is Monastery on the Hill. The transfers on this pattern are often more clear, and it has a nice floral border. These are doll sized dishes. The little tureen is just 3″ across.

By 1800 some English scenes became available as transfer designs. After the Napoleonic Wars, in 1815, there was a trade boom and European scenes and subjects were in vogue. Pieces made for export to America were often very dark blue, and some had patriotic subjects.

Later developments allowed for other monochrome colors in transferware such as green, mild red known as puce, mulberry, black, and sepia or brown. Polychrome designs were made by adding painted colors over a transfer design.

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The sepia color Dresden Flowers teapot is circa 1830. It has a flanged rim with a well-fitting recessed lid. It is 2 5/8″ tall. The vegetable bowl, also in sepia, is Souveneir and dates 1830-1840. It is 4″ across. Both of these little treasures are perfect in the 1:4 scale doll house.

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These plates in graduated sizes are also Dresden Flowers like the teapot above. This transfer is moss green, though this pattern has not been recorded as available in green. The largest plate measures 3 1/2″ in diameter.

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These soft paste plates are not a recorded pattern, though they have the characteristics of toy Staffordshire. 3″ and 3 1/4″

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A desirable transferware sheet pattern in soft paste dating circa 1830’s, Dimity is found most often in blue. This green collection shows some breaks and blurring to the transfers, which is typical, as these were considered as play dishes and were meant to be inexpensive toys. Dimity has been found in puce, sepia, and black as well as blue and green.

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This blue May with Pets sugar pot (or biscuit jar) is from around 1880. It measures just under 5″ to the top of the lid. The other tall sugar pot shares a shape, or blank, with several documented tea sets from circa 1862. I have not found this red transfer of oak leaves and acorns in the reference books. This one has seen rough times with a broken handle and missing lid. It is 4″ tall without the lid.

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This pattern, a lovely example of transfer with hand painting and gold trim added, is called Amherst Japan. There is a child’s tea set in this pattern, circa 1854, but no mention of a child’s dinner set. This small tray may be a piece from a full size dinner set. It measures 6″ across.

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The Amherst Japan tray is the right size to be a serving piece in the 1:4 doll house. It is shown here with two pieces of the French set that is described below.

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While Staffordshire is the place for children’s play dishes, there were lovely sets from other places as well. These tureens are part of a set made in France. The pottery, known as “Old Paris,” is very white, and the red and gold painted accents are quite detailed. The finials are two nobs that look like hops berries. The tureens date circa 1870-1880 and measure 5″ across.

Toy Copeland Lavender Leaf dish set

This lovely Lavender Leaf partial dinner set has recently joined my collection. I love how well made it is. The transfer pattern is clear and sharp, the deep lavender blue color is superb, and the little dishes are even and not too heavy. It dates to 1840-1850 and is doll sized. The square covered dish is just 2 3/4″ across.

For Your Pleasure and Continued Education

Staffordshire has been home to well known potteries such as Wedgwood, Copeland, and Ridgway, as well as to hundreds of small firms that have come and gone through the years. The variety and patterns available for antique toy Staffordshire dishes are too numerous to document–more are being discovered now, and several that I have shown you here are not in the reference books. The best reference books with color illustrations are Doris Lecher’s English Toy China, and Lorraine Punchard’s Playtime Pottery and Porcelain. Find them new and/or used from BN.com.

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These two child sized collections are displayed in a small cabinet. The top shelf holds blue and green tureens, cups, saucers, and plates from the Maidenhair Fern collection. Below it is a tea set with the transfer known as May with Pets. The tall sugar pot with this set is also referred to as a biscuit jar. Both sets date to 1880-1890.

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This is the large green Maidenhair Fern tureen. I especially like this find because it came with the pottery ladle! The ladles for dinner sets are rare because they were so easily broken. The tureen is 6 1/2″ long and the ladle measures 3 3/4″.

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This darling sugar jar is from the Old Mother Hubbard collection, circa 1870 to 1890. It is 4″ tall. One reference claims this is English while the other says American made.

Living in the Pacific Northwest, I do not find toy Staffordshire at my local antique shops and sales. Luckily, it is fairly available on eBay and Ruby Lane, if one is not too discerning in searching for particular patterns and colors. When you are ready to shop for your own toy Staffordshire dishes, I highly recommend Nancy Barrister’s Ruby Lane shop, “Childhood Antiques.” She offers a good selection of antique children’s tea and dinner sets. Additionally, if your budget can only handle single pieces rather than sets, she has a good revolving selection on eBay at nbarrister. Nancy is a friendy and accomodating seller who provides professional packing for your treasures.

For a broader view of the scope of English toy china dishes, an observation of how they changed over the years, and more information on the makers of these pottery whimsies and their marks, I highly recommend two books:

  • English Toy China by Doris Anderson Lechler. 1989; Antique Publications, Marietta, Ohio.
  • Playtime Pottery & Porcelain from the United Kingdom & the United States by Lorraine Punchard. 1996; Schiffer Publishing Ltd, Atglen, PA.
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Miranda’s Humphrey’s Clock tea set is now complete. Here we have the last sugar bowl of our mystery grouping from Part 1 of this article, at circa 1900. It is open and intentionally has no lid. This sugar bowl is 2″ tall, while Miranda is 26″ tall.

Now that you are well on your way to appreciating Staffordshire children’s dishes, please come to tea and tell me about your observations and finds!

 

Please Come to Tea, Part 1: A History of Tea and Equipage in England

 

Antique postcard two girls doll and Staffordhire tea set (2)

Damp winter days are the time to cuddle up with a hot cup of tea and a good book, but spring Valentines, bunnies, and baskets beg for a tea party! All the antique dolls are invited, and there will be plenty of dishes to go around with all the lovelies that were made in the Staffordshire district in England, and a few other places of note as well. There will be plenty to share for two articles on this subject:

While Germany is the place of origin for fine antique china (glazed porcelain) dolls, England is unequivocally the place where delicate and whimsical children’s dishes were made in beautiful abundance. Antique children’s Staffordshire dishes are the perfect compliment for antique dolls. The depth in their history, and the wide variety that these little toys provide, make them a joy to collect, display, and play with!

When Tea Came to England

The history of English porcelain, and that of play dishes, is closely connected with the history of tea in England. Great Britain has been one of the world’s  greatest consumers of tea since the 18th century. Tea was already know by the upper classes in Europe  when green tea, exported from China, was first offered in London coffeehouses in 1657. Coffeehouse owner Thomas Garraway had to explain the new beverage in pamphlets and advertisements. For 30 September 1658, he offered “That Excellent, and by all Physicians approved, China drink, called by the Chinese, Tcha, by other nations Tay, alias Tee, …sold at ye Cophee-house in Sweetings-Rents, by the Royal Exchange, London.”  By 1659, coffee, chocolate, and “tee” were sold in London in almost every street, with tea being mostly consumed by men of upper and mercantile classes.

Catherine of Braganza

Catherine of Braganza

In 1662 princess Catherine of Braganza from Portugal married Charles II and brought with her the preference for tea, which had already become common in Europe. As tea was her temperance drink of choice, it gained social acceptance among the aristocracy. Catherine of Braganza’s choice of tea was also instrumental in the popularization of tea in Britain. Because tea was introduced primarily through male frequented coffee houses, there would have been far less social acceptability for women to drink this beverage had it not been for her example. Catherine of Braganza’s use of tea as a court beverage, rather than a medicinal drink, influenced its popularity.

Black tea overtook green tea in popularity in the 1720s when sugar and milk were added to tea, a practice that was not done in China. The growth in the import of tea parallels that of sugar in the 18th century. Between 1720 and 1750 the imports of tea to Britain through the British East India Company more than quadrupled. Tea was particularly interesting to the Atlantic world, not only because it was easy to cultivate, but also because of how easy it was to prepare, and its ability to revive the spirits and cure mild colds.

Porcelain for Serving and for Showing

When tea was served in such a grand setting as that of Catherine of Braganza, it was generally in the company of female friends within a bedchamber or closet (a small room for entertaining guests near the bedchamber). The tea itself and the delicate pieces of porcelain for brewing and drinking it were displayed in the closet. Inventories for wealthy households during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries list tea equipage in these small private closets or boudoirs, not in kitchens or dining rooms.

17th century tea drinking

The earliest English equipages for making tea date to the 1660s. Small porcelain tea bowls were used by the fashionable; they were occasionally shipped with the tea itself. Tea-drinking hastened the search for a European imitation of Chinese porcelain, which was first successfully produced in England at the Chelsea porcelain manufactory established around 1745 and quickly imitated. Chelsea is the first important porcelain manufactory in England; its earliest soft-paste porcelain aimed at the aristocratic market.

Soft-paste porcelain resulted from the earliest attempts of European potters to replicate Chinese porcelain at a time when its composition was little understood. The earliest formulations were mixtures of clay and ground-up glass.

Tea-set-Getty-Museum-chg early Leeds type

Still Life: Tea Set  Jean-Etienne Liotard (Swiss, 1702-89) About 1781-83

The tea equipage in the painting above has the characteristic shape of early Leeds Pottery with Chinese scenes which were popular at that time. The teapot on the left has a round shape, a raised rim, and plain handle and spout with a very slight curve. Behind it is a tea caddy, a piece that is not commonly found in sets after the early 1800’s. The bowls or cups are handleless and the saucers are deep dish. There is a large slop basin, or waste bowl, in the upper right corner. This was a necessary piece for English sets, as it was never appropriate to pour fresh tea onto cold tea in a cup. Next is the sugar bowl, which is large, with tongs on top. Sugar was less refined in the 18th century, so more was needed, hence a larger bowl. The milk jug, or cream pitcher, has a small pointed spout.

In her blog, Unique Histories from the 18th and 19th Centuries, Geri Walton offers more on English tea equipage:

When tea was introduced to the English in the mid 1600s, the English drank it using the traditional handleless bowls the Chinese used, and referred to a “dish of tea” rather than a cup. These handleless bowls were about half as large as teacups are now. They held just a few sips, anything from two or three elegantly sipped mouthfuls to two or three tablespoons. Interestingly, coffee cups had always been larger, and straight-sided, in comparison to the smaller, curved teacups. Coffee cups also gained a handle before teacups. Eventually, however, the English adapted the handle for teacups from the handle used on “posset” cups. Posset cups served as containers for hot spiced medieval drinks of curdled milk mixed with wine or ale, and these cups acquired handles to prevent injury to sensitive fingers. However, teacup handles did not appear until the nineteenth century. By the late 1800’s there were many choices of tea cup styles available.

To Follow the Queen: Etiquette and Manners

If you have read Jane Austen, then you realize how complex, and how very important, etiquette was to people–especially in England–in the 18th and 19th centuries. Tea and dinner evolved into complex rituals requiring the correct accoutrements.

Even Americans followed a proper etiquette, which changed over time. I have always been intrigued with this passage about tea drinking manners from Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The setting here is Upper New York State circa 1866:

Eliza Jane was more bossy than ever [after a term at Malone Academy]. She said Almanzo’s boots made too much noise. She even told Mother that she was mortified because father drank tea from his saucer.

“My land! How else would he cool it?” Mother asked.

“It isn’t the style to drink out of saucers any more,” Eliza Jane said. “Nice people drink out of the cup.”

“Eliza Jane!” Alice cried. “Be Ashamed! I guess Father’s as nice as anybody!”

Mother actually stopped working. She took her hands out of the dishpan and turned to face Eliza Jane. “Young lady,” she said, “if you have to show off your fine education, you tell me where saucers come from.”

Eliza Jane Wilder as a young woman

Eliza Jane Wilder

Eliza Jane opened her mouth, and shut it, and looked foolish.

“They come from China,” Mother said. “Dutch sailors brought them from China, two hundred years ago, the first time sailors ever sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and found China. Up to that time, folks drank out of cups; they didn’t have saucers. Ever since they’ve had saucers, they’ve drunk out of them. I guess a thing that folks have done for two hundred years we can keep on doing. We’re not likely to change, for a new-fangled notion that you’ve got in Malone Academy.”

That shut up Eliza Jane.

Wilder, Laura Ingalls. Farmer Boy, Harper & Row; New York, 1933.

. . . We would have to surmise from the history above that people in England and America didn’t have saucers before 1665, and possibly the cups referred to before then in the above passage were posset cups!? And we do indeed drink tea out of cups these days.   😉

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Late 1700’s Feather Edge Leed’s England toy plates blend well with little 18th century pewter plates and Victorian toy forks and knives. The plates are only 3″ in diameter.

With so much to teach the young ones in the way of ettiquette, it was inevitable for child sized and toy tea and dinner sets to become available, along with dessert and toilette sets, not long after full sized English-made sets were part of middle and upper class households. Children learned rituals and manners by having dinner or tea parties with their peers, or by serving their dolls. The second part of this series will present a diversity of English toy dishes with the joy they bring in their charm and whimsy!

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A century’s worth of children’s sugar boxes or bowls. Tune in next time to find out how they rank from circa 1820 to circa 1900!

P.S. “Can’t I Just Have a Tiny Book?”

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Miss Ruby and Little Davie snuggle in with their “tiny books.” “Davie, how many strawberries did the caterpillar eat before it turned into a butterfly?” “Oh, Ruby, I lost count. I was watching the pearl turn into the moon in Grandfather Twilight.

While working in the bookstore tonight, I witnessed a tantrum. Now, it is not unusual to hear little ones put up a fuss, and it is usually not pleasant to listen to. This, however, had to be the cutest tantrum I have ever heard:

A little girl, about 7 years old, is wailing as she follows her mom who is striding purposefully toward the exit. She sobs, “Can’t I just have a tiny book? They have tiny books!”

What a synchronicity when I have just been writing about tiny books! Now I know that this little girl most likely meant an “inexpensive book” in this situation, but maybe she, too, has a special affinity for small things. And I, for one, hope and wish that little ones will have “tiny books” and big books to their hearts’ content.

Sweet reading, and sweet dreams.

Jennie

Artful Accomodations

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Bettina and Edith are quite at their ease in their small cluttered bedroom space.

Now that the dolls are home and comfortable with each other in their family, we can turn our attention to creating their home environment. A doll room can be a cozy backdrop for displaying our cherished antique dolls, and it can offer an abundance of whimsical elements to delight. The 1:4 size room is the perfect size to reward the senses–with little things to look at, and with treasures just right for holding–with alluring pleasures.

As with our home environment, there are elements of style to be considered for our doll rooms. One need only to gaze into the magnificent array of The Thorne Rooms to realize how varied the choices can be for small antique rooms. Of course, most of The Thorne Rooms represent affluent estates.

Dining Room 1770-1774 Hammond-Harwood House, Annapolis, Maryland

Thorne Rooms Dining Room, 1770-1774 Hammond-Harwood House, Annapolis, Maryland

Tasha Tudor’s Doll’s House, while cozy and inviting, also includes furniture and accoutrements that are more appropriate for an affluent household.

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Tasha with her miniature birdcage in front of her Doll’s House. This photo was taken when her dollhouse was on large shelves in her home, before the house was built to display at Colonial Williamsburg.

Joy Harrington’s Izannah home is more modest in its furnishings, yet it still contains many lovely antiques that are scarce and relatively expensive when sought in today’s markets.

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Joy’s Izannah home contains many lovely antiques such as tiny peg-wooden dolls, Staffordshire dishes, miniature paintings and drawings, books and photo albums, tiny needlework, and paper boxes, as well as the Izannah Walker dolls.

Antique furnishings are most desirable when creating a home for antique dolls. The ambiance and patina of the era is necessary to best preserve the presence of the doll. The doll, herself, will have a lot to say about the style of room in which she would like to reside. A French fashion doll demands an affluent residence, while a German bisque may like the modernity of an early 20th century abode. Early cloth dolls such as Izannahs, and mid 19th century china dolls, seem to prefer Early American and middle-class Victorian surroundings.

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French Napolean III doll furniture of 1865 for an antique fashion doll.

Having at least some antiques in the room setting furthers the antique doll’s presence. Yet, when one cannot supply a house-full of antique miniatures, it is still possible to create a charming space with vintage collectibles and found treasures along with antique furnishings. A key factor is a strict adherance to natural materials. Even when some of your doll room furnishings are new items rather than antiques, they must be made of wood, metal, cotton, paper, pottery, etc., and never of plastic, polyester, acrylic, or any other man-made substance, if they are to have a chance of blending into an antique setting! Allow me to  share some ideas and combinations that have worked for me in creating my doll rooms.

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The antique kitchen cabinet is perfect for displaying the Staffordshire toy dishes. The antique milking stool is a fair alternative for a table. Antique calico fabric peeks from the laundry basket. The stool under the laundry basket was a second-hand store find. It was covered with daisy decals when I bought it. I painted it with dusty blue/grey paint left over from a larger painting project to bring it into style for my small display.

Of course, the foundation of a doll room is the furniture. Chairs seem to be plentiful. It is easy to find doll size wooden Windsor chairs, that are a fair copy of the life-size chairs, with turned spindles. Even new or vintage chairs can look authentic. My doll rooms started with my Victorian bed, purchased at a flea market over 30 years ago. Adding the dresser from the Brimfield Antique Fair, and the ladderback chair, furnished the bedroom. I then found a perfect rustic antique doll kitchen cupboard for displaying my toy Staffordshire dishes.

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Caroline shows the stack of unusual green Dresden Flowers Staffordshire plates. Other kitchen necessities include a tiny tin mold, a little key, two antique silver salt spoons, a victorian doll set of two knives and two forks, and a wooden kitchen spoon, that is a new handcrafted baby spoon.

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The antique milking stool and spice cupboard that furnish my tiered keeping room. The dolls are 17″ and 15″ tall. Behind them is the antique doll quilt made of tiny triangles of 19th century cottons.

The wooden spice rack also works well as a kitchen cupboard in the doll room. I have not yet purchased a table for the dolls, but my antique milking stool fills in nicely for now. A good modern alternative for antique furniture is that made for the American Girl historic dolls. I especially like Felicity’s tea table, though the AG furniture is just about as spendy as antiques!

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Mary Morgan has quite an array of wooden toys, dolls, and books, as befits a middle class Victorian child. She is 21″ tall.

Toys and dollies add whimsy to the setting for child dolls. Mary Morgan has plenty to choose from! The little bisque Highland Mary is a perfect companion for her, though this dolly was not the right toy for Miss Ruby, the Izannah doll. Mary also has a rocking horse and a hobby horse, both vintage second-hand-store finds. She holds a little Japanese Kokeshi doll with a wobble head, while several more, including a teeny pair, are on the floor. I found these at a flea market in Japan. They add that popular Victorian flair for the Orient to Mary’s playroom.

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The little Kokeshi dolls were a vintage find in Japan when I lived there. The kitty was a new catalog purchase.

Mary also has a little hand-turned music box that plays “Greensleeves,” a Russian doll spinning top, a wooden house consisting of three blocks, a wooden kitty, and a set of ABC blocks in a basket. The blocks were purchased new at a craft store. They blend fairly well, their drawback being that they are pastel colors, rather than the authentic primary colors for antique blocks. The little Beatrix Potter books were purchased new, and came as a complete set in a box. Since Peter Rabbit was first published in 1902, the era is fairly close to blend with Mary Morgan’s play room.

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Little Davie spends hours playing with his wooden animals and trees set. He is almost 18″ tall.

A wooden Noah’s Ark toy was a popular Victorian era toy, especially nice for boys, and as a Sunday toy. I do not have a Noah’s Ark. Instead, I have this marvelous little German set of wooden animals and trees. It came with other little blocks for building. It is just right for Little Davie’s toy. I purchased these toys new from a toy store in the late 1970’s. They were included with the several sets of wooden blocks that my children played with in the 80’s and 90’s. This is a case of just waiting long enough for a new purchase to become vintage!

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An assortment of small books includes an antique reprint (Don’ts for Mothers), a small journal in antique style, Little Gift Books, a small antique autograph album, and an antique gem tintype photo album, along with the paper cover new Beatrix Potter books.

Since I adore books, and my own home is full of them, they will naturally appear in my dolls’ house. However; I do not have a doll desk or bookshelf yet, so the books tend to lay or lean in inviting stacks. There are some beautiful antique miniature tomes to be had, in leather volumes that are lovely for the doll house. I am not in a position to afford most of them, though. The collection that I have put together thus far includes both antique and new books. Little Gift Books that can be had new from the booksellers can work if care is taken with your selections. The two I have here, under the chair and topped with a little navy blue leather Shakespeare volume, are Love Letters and A Child’s Garden of Verses. They are both editions of antique writings. Also, they are both muted colors with vintage styling to the dust jackets. This helps them to blend with the antique books in the antique setting, while filling out my library affordably.

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An assortment of paintings (prints) and photograghs for the dollhouse wall.

Art for the walls of the dolls’ house also contributes to the sense of realism and completeness of the room. Antique miniature paintings are lovely, and available, but again, the price is more than I can spare. Alternately, small antique frames can be had at antique fairs and flea markets, often for a neglegible price. Usually the art or photograph in the frame can be changed to one more suited for the doll room. Small art prints are also easy to be had. Sometimes, little antique tintype photographs in their cases, like the one above of a young woman, can be found affordably. The three oval prints that I have on the wall are new reproductions. They appear authentic with metal frames and convex glass just like antique frames.

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Bettina enjoys her collection of miniature perfume bottles.

Little trinkets fill out the contents of the doll room. Any Victorian lady would appreciate a collection of fine perfume bottles for her bedroom. These are vintage, found at a local antique mall, while the cobalt bottle in the middle is new and hand blown, from a craft fair.

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The perfume bottles on a crocheted doily.

A Victorian lady enjoys her needlework and textiles, as well. I have been able to include antique fabrics and quilts in my doll rooms. The bed is covered with the lovely rose and grey early 19th century block print fabric, and the dolls have several cutter quilt pieces that they enjoy. They have a variety of doilies that I have crocheted, and several pieces of cross stitch that are appropriate for their home. Again, an early 19th century miniature sampler would be much appreciated for this home, but it  is an aquisition that must wait for now, so personally hand crafted needlework fills in nicely for antique items.

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Bettina displays several cross stitch pieces that I made.

Finally, since I like nature’s art as well, my doll rooms include natural items too. Nature can also supply miniatures. Small baskets for the doll rooms are easy to come by. The little coil basket in the display below was handmade and has a long cord to wear as a necklace. The little band boxes came from a craft store.

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The little natural wonders that Caroline shows include a basket of seashells, a cobalt plate with even smaller shells, a bottle of malachite chips, a tiny wasp nest, a little feather, and several crystals and amethyst.

Little treasures can be found where antiques are found. They also show up at flea markets, secondhand stores, craft fairs and stores, retail stores, outside in nature, and in the hands of those who craft them. Anything of an antique nature that shows up in your home can most likely adorn your doll rooms as well. And the little 1:4 whimsies will indeed delight you and your dolls alike!

Miniature Scales in Perspective

Antique photo toddler viewing china museum display

People of any age are fascinated by miniature whimsies!

Doll houses are unabashadly charming and whimsical. They hold the attention of children and adults, offering a material realm which is part of our world, yet is a separate fantasy place for our imagination to dwell.

Miniature houses, like dolls, have been part of the human experience for thousands of years, with the earliest known examples found in Egyptian tombs and having religious purposes. Baby houses, which were handmade valuable and expensive collections for adults, became popular in Europe beginning in the 16th century, followed by childrens’ toy houses in the 19th century. These early dollhouses did not use a standardized scale.

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These chairs show a progression of sizes. The first on the left is a full-size adult windsor chair. Next is a child’s chair at approximately half size. Third is a 1/4th size doll chair that fits for an 18″ doll. Fourth is a 1/8th size chair for an 8″ doll, and last is a 1/12th size chair that fits 5″ to 6″ dolls.

Although there is now a range of scales for toy dollhouses, we will focus on scales that are useful for creating a doll space for antique dolls and miniatures. Only a small math lesson is required to figure out the scale perspective, and there are two ways that the perspectives are commonly represented. Let’s start with the common hobby dollhouse size of 1/12th scale. In this size, 1 inch of the miniature equals 1 foot, or 12 inches of the full size article it represents; therefore, it is 1/12th of full size. Sometimes this is written as 1:12. 1/8th size was a common size for 19th century play dollhouses. So in this size, 1 inch of miniature represents 8 inches of full size, or 1:8.

The size of miniature that is our focus for antique dolls such as Izannah Walker and lady china dolls is 1/4th scale, or 1 inch of miniature equals 4 inches of full size.  If you consider that an adult person is generally around 5’6″ to 6′, and divide that by 4, then you get to the doll size of 16.5″ to 18″ which fits nicely into the 1:4 size room.

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These chairs, from left to right, are 1:4, about 1:6, and 1:8. I adore the middle chair, which is an exact miniature copy of the one that Tasha Tudor used at her artist desk. This little chair was made by her son, Seth, with the seat woven by his wife, Marjorie. While it is too small for the 18″ dolls, I find that it can work in the 1:4 room setting as a child’s chair with the dollies sitting on it. I love its detail and style so much that I want to include it even though it is smaller.

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A perspective of furniture scale does not always correspond exactly with a decrease in doll size. In the case of 1:8 scale furniture, the doll size tends to be 8″ rather than the exact mathematical decrease to 9″ because these Ginny, Muffy, and Madame Alexander dolls represent children and have wider bodies. A slender bodied 9″ china doll would fit this scale too.

Okay! Our math lesson is over! Knowing about miniature scales is a good foundation for putting together a miniature display or dollhouse. But as we can see, it is only a guideline when bringing together little antiques and small found treasures.

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Antique china dollhouse dolls

Here is a progression of antique dollhouse china dolls for perspective. Hazel, the largest doll on the left, is 6 1/2″ tall. She is too large for 1:12 scale furniture, and looks better with items that are closer to 1:8 scale.  Next, in the blue dress, is a child doll, 5″ tall. She also does not work with 1:12 scale because her childish stature is out of proportion even though she is the right height. She works well as a child for Hazel, and both being Hertwig dolls of the late 19th century, they look appropriate together.

The middle doll above, in the pink dress, is a wee covered wagon style from about 1850. She was a very special purchase from Sara Bernstein, who’s fabulous selection of antique dolls for sale can be found on Ruby Lane. This doll is also 5″ tall, and with her slender lady body, she is quite the 1:12 scale dollhouse lady. The1860’s flat top lady in the striped dress is 4 5/8″ tall, also fitting well with 1:12 scale. Her baby, a 1 1/2″ Frozen Charlotte has a covered wagon hair style, and her left arm is broken off. These three dolls work well together in both size and era, or age.

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These wee dollhouse dolls are adorable and appopriate dollies for Ruby.

Not only do these small mid-19th century dolls work for a small dollhouse, they also are perfect as little dollies for the girls like Ruby who inhabit the 1:4 scale rooms. Once more, size is a factor here, but also the era of the dolls. Several same size 5″ bisque dolls in my collection do not blend well with Ruby. They need contemporary early 20th century surroundings, while Ruby and the lady chinas appreciate older, more modest surroundings.

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Three teapots and cups with saucers show a size progression for doll room accessories.

Accessories in the doll room can be evaluated for size and era appropriateness too. In the above photo, with the exception of the smallest white cup and saucer on the left, these are all examples of English Staffordshire wares, which we will enjoy in more detail in the upcoming post on Staffordshire toy pottery. The antique Staffordshire childrens’ dishes typically came in three basic size ranges, though they were not specifically “to scale.” There were child-size sets for children to learn and entertain; there were toy-size sets for doll play; and there were miniature sets for use in doll’s houses. Shown above on the right is a full size English cobalt blue teapot with a blue transfereware cup and saucer. The middle set is a child size set from the turn of the 20th century. The smallest teapot on the left is a doll sized one from around 1830. Both the size and the era of these teapots are factors to consider when choosing their best setting.

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Miranda Jumeau is 25″ tall. She is too large for 1:4 scale settings. Though she is not up to three feet for 1:2 size, as a child she looks fine with a slightly larger-than-scale appropriate tea set. She was made in about 1880-90, so this circa 1900 tea set works with her for era as well.

While scale is an important guideline when creating doll and small antique settings, it is not a hard and fast rule. In the “real world,” we don’t live by “scale.” The objects that make up our household come in all sizes, and most likely come from different decades and centuries as well. That is part of the fluidity–the comming and going–of our possessions. A doll’s space is fluid as well. Some things in this space may be intended for a scale dollhouse, and some will be wee objects that we like, and add to the setting. Some may be treasured antiques, some may be little natural objects, and some may be new items that carry whimsical charm. The doll setting will likely change as we remove some things, add others, and rearrange, just as we do in our homes. Ultimately, the goal is to  exercise your own creativity in imagining your whimiscal setting for your enjoyment.

May you always find comfort in your home, be it large or small.  ~Jennie

Antique photo girl with doll bathing scene


A  Long Regard for Small Things

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Karen with the bedroom furniture. 2014

As long as I can remember, I have had a special affinity for small things: little natural wonders like seashells, tiny bright stones, feathers and acorns, and miniatures. As a child, I made rooms for my dolls in any likely place. My mother’s fireplace clock on a table was a favorite spot to make a cozy little doll room, and pulling out blocks of encyclopedias from the bookshelf left nice smaller doll rooms with a book on top for the ceiling. Smallest of all, the low cinder block wall around our Little Rock, Arkansas front yard had cubbies that were perfect room-size for an inexpensive 5″ doll with long brown hair that I bought with my own money. In the summer, she had a magical garden fairy world with an unexpected bit of high tech–if she was kidnapped and stranded on the shelf of a higher stone wall, my brother’s battery powered helicopter would come and rescue her!

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The fireplace clock now belongs to me and is still a favorite centerpiece for little doll displays. The fire is lit with a Christmas tree light bulb. Here are Karen and Vicki’s Ginny and Muffie dolls enjoying the fire’s warmth as they watch the clock for tea time.

As a young adult, I became enthralled with 1/12th scale miniatures after several trips to see the Thorne Rooms at the Chicago Art Institute. I could stand for hours gazing into those glass fronted boxes where everything was so lifelike, even with perfect lighting and shadows. I felt like I could fall right into that eighteenth century kitchen! There were no dolls to break the suspension of disbelief in these tiny realms. You expected a live person to walk in and resume living there.

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Thorne Rooms Pennsylvania Kitchen 1752.

Of course I had to make my own mini house which, given my limited means and space, was made of stacked sturdy boxes. I called it “Der Kline Haus,” which means simply “The Small House.”

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This hand-made intricately detailed 1/12th scale cradle once resided in the master bedroom of my dollhouse. I crocheted the tiny little coat and hat, that are shown here in the cradle, from size 20 cotton thread in the 1980’s when my eyesight was better. This crochet set and the rug, which is actually a vintage lamp mat, were all part of the sadly demolished Der Kline Haus. The china dolls, circa 1850’s and 1860’s, have not had the pleasure of visiting Der Kline Haus in its prime.

Then I discovered the wonder of antique toy furniture in 1/8th scale, perfect for Ginny and 8″ Madame Alexander dolls, at the Fowler House Museum just two blocks from where I lived in Lafayette Indiana. It must have been a joy and an adventure for the original owners of that dollhouse to find those little wooden treasures of furniture, and copper pots and pottery dishes, on world travels! This house was made to be played with, dolls in their settings in the rooms.

My dollhouse has been packed away for many years. The box-rooms were discarded as the wallpaper (some of which was made from wrapping paper from my wedding gifts!) faded and turned brown. Yet I still can’t resist picking up little things in the course of my wanderings. And like Auri in Patrick Rothfuss’ tale, The Slow Regard of Silent Things, I listen to the things to know where they best want to be; to know where they will be comfortable and where they belong. Until now, the little things have been in various places throughout the house, some more comfortable than others. Teeny tiny seashells found in the sand of a long-ago Far East beach are in a little bottle in the bathroom. A doll-size Japanese clasp purse is on a shelf of the desk. Little wooden and metal toys are in a small cabinet in the bedroom. Miniature books are in a drawer or on the shelf near larger books. Fingertip sized perfume bottles are in the “powder room” cabinet. Child sized dishes live in a wooden box on top of the antique sewing machine, or get overwhelmed among the larger Depression Glass. (No, they are not comfortable there!)

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These small kitchen items, including a cordial glass, a silver corn scewer, two silver salt spoons, and toy pans and dishes, are now collected together on an antique spice cupboard that is the right size to be a doll cabinet.

Last summer I gave you a glance at my long-ago packed away and brought out anew doll bed and the newly acquired dresser to go with it, along with a coordinating ladderback chair. These, along with some of the scattered minis as accessories, make a lovely little bedroom for the lady china dolls. Paula Walton’s post (IzannahWalker.com) from July 2014 showing Edyth O’Neal’s wonderful large scale closet doll house inspired me to clear off enough shelf space in my hall closet to tuck in a little bedroom for the ladies. Besides, where else would I have room to display this 1/4th scale doll furniture? It could have ended up in the closet packed away for lack of display space, so why not as a display in the closet instead? Near perfect solution! I don’t see this enchanting room every day, but when I do slide open that closet door, I can peek in at Edith and Miss Bettina Bumblebottom as they sit on the bed in their crisp white undies, drinking tea and confiding secrets to each other.

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Edith (in the red boots) and Miss Bettina Bumblebottom spend hours and days with each other in the closet bedroom as they await new wardrobes. Edith is sharing her favorite sentiments from a mini book of Love Letters while her tea gets cold in the little blue Depression Glass cup on the chair to the left. Bettina’s cup is Blue Willow transferware from Occupied Japan, and was an excellent second-hand store find!

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Little white kid leather shoes that long ago belonged to a bisque doll have a home now under the ladderback chair. I have had these shoes for more than 30 years before finding a place for them to truly belong.

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You can see on the dresser-top a doily that I crocheted, and on it is a red English transferware bowl that is probably a salt bowl. It was not intended as a child’s or doll dish, yet it fits perfectly in this setting. Barely visible in the bowl are tortoise shell hairpins for a bisque doll. They also find a place to belong here, even though neither the Chinas, nor the Izannah can wear them! Behind the bowl is a little tintype in its case. Three perfume bottles are on the right, with more small bottles and a little fan on the left.

Like my closet bedroom, Tasha Tudor’s acclaimed doll house is also 1/4th scale, consisting of special items from her childhood dollhouse made for her by her mother, of fabulous antiques collected by Tasha, and of special gifts from her friends and family. Her dollhouse, originally set up on large shelves in her home, was created for dolls that Tasha made herself. Later, a special house was made for her treasures and displayed in Colonial Williamsburg for twenty years. Now, Tasha’s dollhouse is back at her Home, Corgi Cottage. Tours, run by part of her family after her death, are very limited and are quite expensive.

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Note the antique toy Staffordshire plates on the wall shelf, and the matching tureen on the table.

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The furniture in this house is quite exquisite. These dolls have a more affluent lifestyle than my dolls who prefer their primitive style surroundings.

And now, who among China, Papier Mache, and Izannah Walker doll lovers wouldn’t fall in love with an Izannah home like Joy Harrington’s, featured in the August 2015 issue of Antique Doll Collector magazine? Not only is this small house a delightful home for antique dolls, it’s the perfect way to bring together and display a lifetime of collected small antiques! I have pored over this article, gleaning every little whimsy, and again, I am inspired to bring together my own collection in a display that is more doll house-like, if not actually a large scale dollhouse.

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“A Visit to an Izannah Home” by Joy Harrington

At this point in time, my best option beyond the closet bedroom is my stairs which are wide enough to accommodate a multi-level keeping room display. Perhaps later in the fall or winter, when renovations to our apartment building wind down, I can try a two room display on my extra antique dining table.

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On my stairs, an antique doll cupboard holds an abundance of French, and English Staffordshire, doll china and pottery. Laundry waits to be put away in a basket near the cupboard. On the step behind the cupboard is my newest find–a little silverplate coffee pot that came from Goodwill! It is waiting to find its best place to belong.

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More of my stairstep display with twin Hertig dollhouse size little girls on the Seth Tudor made chair.

I am so enthusiastic about the large scale doll houses that I would like to write about more insights in several more posts. Coming up will be postings on miniature scales and choosing the right size of furniture and accessories for the dolls, on furniture and little things for putting together the displays, which seem to be fluid as collections grow and change, and on English Staffordshire toy or doll china, my newest antique collectible love. We could even have a tea party!

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There is so much information on 1/12th scale miniatures, and so little on doll sized small things. The small things, unlike “miniatures” are large enough to be a pleasure to hold. It is also a sensual delight to contemplate small things not meant to be toys that can be seamlessly added into a doll’s space. What a fun and endearing venture into the world of the whimsical and enchantment! Come and play with me!

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Ruby has a new soft and cuddly quilt just her size, and some very special little china dolls to snuggle up with.