Saturday, January 3, 2015

1890s German Dollhouse Room Box

My favorite Christmas present this year was a German folding dollhouse room box, circa the late 1880s - 1890s. It was clearly a favorite of its original owner as well, as she carefully treasured the fragile toy over many years.

At first glance, you would never even realize this is a dollhouse. It starts out as a lithographed cardboard box, just 8 by 5 by 2 inches, about the size of  a small candy box. The top features a beautiful lithograph of Victorian ladies in their parlor (and that is a hint of what's inside!)

When you lift the lid, the box falls open as the sides drop away, revealing within a gorgeously illustrated Victorian room.

What had appeared to be just a pattern on the outside of the box reveals itself to be brickwork, and the two side panels that fold out are illustrated with windows.

The original owner pencilled her name alongside this window. It appears to read "Hortie B." Perhaps short for Hortense? "Made in Germany" is visible below.

Inside, the lithographed walls are rich with detail and color.

The little room box also contained what appears to be its original furniture, in a small scale and narrow depth made necessary by the shallowness of the closed box. There is an upholstered sofa and two chairs, along with a table that features its own lithographed scene on top.

The outside of the box still retains its original store label and price (25 cents, no small amount back in the late 1800s!) It was sold by Henry Moll in St. Peter, Minnesota, whose shop, interestingly, specialized not in toys, but in books, stationery, wall paper, and window dressings. You can imagine a Victorian mother carefully examining wall paper samples at Mr. Moll's shop while her daughter was kept occupied with this little dollhouse.

I don't know which tiny dolls Hortie kept in her room box as they were sadly missing, but I found a few in my collection that seemed perfectly at home.

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