Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Old Dollhouse Grocery Shops

There was such a surprisingly positive reaction to my latest dollhouse grocery shop last week, I thought perhaps I should do a group post (I have six shops so far). So here they all are! They date from 1914 to the 1950s, and include American, German, Danish, and British examples.

My earliest shop was made by the American toy company, Cass, in 1914. It's constructed of cardboard, with a little wooden counter, and measures about 9 inches tall. The base the counter rests on folds up into the store for storage. The cough drop box on the top shelf is original to the store, while the other pieces, while old, are not, but they seemed suitable. It's amazing to me that such a fragile little toy has survived for so long.

On the bottom shelf is one of my oddest old dollhouse food items, a 1 1/2 inch cardboard and tin can of "Heinz Vegetable Salad in Mayonnaise." I nominate it for Most Disgusting-Sounding Canned Food Item ever conceived. Blecch.

Next is my 1920s Danish grocery shop, staffed by a 5 inch Steiff bear. The shop is 16 inches wide by 7 1/2 inches tall. It's made of wood, with a separate counter, and retains many of its original items.

This shop is unusual in that it features a display window, and the back is printed with advertising:

"Could I interest you in some Knakbrod?"
Here is the first antique dollhouse shop I acquired: a 1930s German Art Deco style grocery. Made of wood and measuring 14 1/2 inches wide by 8 inches tall, it came with lots of old products, and I've added some more. Some of my loveliest, and oldest, dollhouse food is in this shop, including plaster meats, sausages, and cakes from the late 1800s-1920s.

My 5 inch Steiff bear staffs the cheese and sausage counter:

A closeup of the cake shelves:

Some closeups of the meat and cake items, all very old German-made plaster pieces:

This next shop is a lithographed tin grocery made in America by Wolverine Toys in the 1930s. It's the largest of my shops, measuring 20 1/4 inches wide by 12 inches tall. The two lithographed side panels fold in to close the shop up for storage. It's missing its separate counter, but the phone and scale, as well as most of the products, are original to this set.

Both side panels feature fantastic illustrations of children shopping in the store. On the left side, a little boy in denim overalls and a cap purchases a can of tomatoes and box of tea (?) from a clerk with a '30s platinum marcelled hairdo:

 The right side panel shows an adorable little girl choosing sausages at the butcher's counter:

My smallest dollhouse grocery shop is this one, made in America in the 1940s, wooden, and measuring only 10 inches tall by 4 3/4 inches wide. I believe almost all the products are original to this piece, with the exception of a few Grandmother Stover's and Dolly Dear accessories. The counter features an attached "paper roll" (made of wood) on the left side.

The week's shopping, ready to be bagged.

My most recent, and one of my most unusual, shops, is this 1950s-early '60s British "Circle Grocery", also made of wood. It's quite large, measuring 15 inches wide by 10 inches tall, and distinctively painted in red and turquoise. Being British, it naturally came with lots of packages of tea, as well as many other interesting pieces. The groceries upon the counter are a much smaller scale than those on the shelves, but it all came together and seems to work out. The golliwog sticker on the counter was a premium from Robertson's, which I believe was a preserves manufacturer.

 The itty bitty Ovaltine can and Lyons Ready-Mix Pudding box 
are particularly cute:


  1. I love all your shops - such a variety, English, American, German, Danish - wooden, cardboard, tin litho! I have only one shop, of sorts - a 1950s Tudor Toy / GeeBee house and shop combined. It didn't come with any goods, but I've acquired various pieces - many of which I also see on the shelves of your Circle Grocery - and Nestle's condensed milk, too. I don't have any Ovaltine or Ready-Mix Pudding, though - would love to, especially that pudding box!
    The 'vegetable salad in mayonnaise' doesn't sound too bad to me, actually. Coleslaw is salad in mayonnaise, and so is potato salad, and I can imagine various others. I'm pretty sure you can buy them tinned here, though we either make them fresh or buy them from the deli counter, where both are standard offerings!

  2. Hmmm...yes, I can see the coleslaw similarity, now that you mention it. But I don't like coleslaw (or potato salad) either! :0)

  3. Is there a website dedicated to these type of stores. I would enjoy more information on companies that produced them.

    Thank you for displaying your store, it was quite informative.


    1. Hi,

      I was never able to find a comprehensive website about miniature shops, but I did find a really fun one that features many of the stores in the 1940s/50s Playtown line (similar to the Grocery Store shown above, 5th shop down). That site is:

      There is a wonderful German book that has photos of many antique European models. It's called "Puppenstuben Puppenhauser" and I think this is a subtitle: "Kuchen, Kaufladen und Zubehor aus drei Jahrhunderten." It's by Alice and Botho Wagner. Even though I couldn't read it, I used the photos in this book as a guide during the restoration of one of my antique miniature shops, which is posted elsewhere on this blog.

      Some American toy grocery shops, including the tin litho one above and some others in its line, can be found in the book "Collector's Guide to Housekeeping Toys 1870-1970" by Margaret Wright.