Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Antique Dollhouse and Miniature Bear

Recently, I posted about my first antique American lithographed wooden dollhouse. Last weekend, I was thrilled to acquire another one at an outdoor antique show, along with a miniature Steiff bear who is just the right size to live inside.

Here is the new house (on the right) with its predecessor:

They were both made by the same unknown company in the very early 1900s, and feature fronts that swing open to reveal two simple rooms papered with their original oversized wall coverings. These houses are sometimes referred to as "Gutter Houses" by dollhouse collectors because of the prominent piece of molding that runs along their roofline, resembling a gutter. They were probably made in imitation of the more expensive Bliss houses available at the same time. They originally had red-stained roofs that tend to fade badly with time; my first house has a roof that was repainted green, probably around the time of the Great Depression in the 1930s, when it may have been refurbished and gifted to a needy child. This new house is all original, and even smaller than the first, being only about 10 1/2 inches high.

Two tiny antique Steiff bears have moved in to the first floor, where they are presently having tea.


  1. These are wonderful. I'm glad they weren't victims of urban renewal.

  2. I can see they are having a wonderful time, tea and chat in a fascinating little house.

  3. It's very cute.I have a question which only someone who loves these items as you clearly could answer.In this instance where you know exactly what an item looked like originally would it be Ok to restore it to that appearance?Trying as closely as possible to match paint ,wallpaper etc.or do you feel that aging is part of its charm?Whenever I see an antique toy I'm always tempted to fix it up just to see how it looked that first time but I leave it as is because it's supposed to have aged .What do you think?

  4. For me, it varies object by object depending on several factors. My overall guiding principle is to "preserve" rather than "restore" wherever possible. That is, I will readily do whatever is needed to keep an already fragile toy from decaying further, but I'm much more cautious about attempting to restore a piece to its original condition. Because, really, if you've done restoration, it isn't original anymore, and for me, no matter how good the work looks, I know it's new. And that bothers me.

    I generally restore only when a toy is so damaged that it is unrecognizable or in danger of dissolution. And whenever I consider removing an alteration that was made to a toy (like the green roof on the big house) or repairing wear or damage, I weigh the alteration's or damage's historic value.

    For instance: with the green roofed house, the repaint was done during the Great Depression, probably so the shabby house could be "freshened up" and regifted. To me, that's historically important, and I'm leaving it alone. However, if the house was missing its roof entirely, well, that damage really makes it unusable, and I would replace it.

    Another example would be with teddy bears. I repair when the damage is dangerous to the bear's continued longevity. For instance: the tiny Steiff bear above came with his nose severely overstitched by someone who used this method to repair a bad tear at the end of his snout. This was not a historic repair (like the green paint on the house) and in fact, was very damaging, as his stuffing is leaking out the tear, so this bear will go to the teddy bear repair lady to have his nose and mouth restored to their original condition. On the other hand, I have other bears that are missing parts of their noses and mouths where they've been kissed or worn away: those I generally leave alone, as this isn't causing damage, and I feel it is part of their character developed over their long lives.

    If you'd like to see a complete restoration I did have done for a bear that was just too far gone, search the blog for teddy bears and look for the 1920s Sleeping Eyed Bear: it's pretty amazing!

    I hope this helps!

  5. I understand what you're saying.That bear was wonderfully restored .You can't tell he was fixed at all ,but he looks beautifully aged ,not brand new.I guess to satisfy my curiosity about how old things first looked I should stick to my usual plan B.I make a copy.Usually works out best for cloth items though,sigh.