Museum talk

Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Doll house on display at Buffalo Island Museum.

Nancy Sills remembers waking up on Christmas morning and happily seeing a doll house under the tree. More than 50 years later she donated the doll house to the Buffalo Island Museum.

It is a 1949-50 Marx tin litho two-story colonial style dollhouse. The colors are still bright and the house is in very good condition although the furniture is no longer there.

Louis Marx started the Louis Marx And Company in 1919 with his brother David. Their slogan was "Give the customer more toy for less money."

They not only made doll houses, but toy animals, toy guns, toy cars and toy trains. Their first colonial style doll house was made in 1949. Unlike most toy companies, the Marx revenues actually grew during the Depression. But they declined after the 1950s perhaps due to not advertising as much as their competitors. They sold the company in 1972, and the original Marx toys are still highly collectible today.

Miniature houses were made thousands of years ago. These were wooden houses complete with furnishings. The earliest European doll houses were from the 16th century. These were extremely detailed with furnishings and accessories. They were very expensive and were mostly owned by the wealthy. In the 17th and 18th centuries, doll houses were copies of one's own home. They were not intended for children to play with but rather for the prestige.

During the Industrial Revolution factories began mass production of dollhouses and miniature furniture. After World War II, dollhouses continued to be mass produced on a much larger scale. They were mostly made of painted sheet metal and filled with plastic furniture. They were more reasonably priced and almost every little girl could own one.

Today these dollhouses are highly collectible. The one at the museum is one of the more rarer ones because of the round window. Of course, the most expensive collectible doll houses today are the handmade wooden ones.

Visit the museum and see the antique toys on display. Ms. Sills also donated a Wizard toy refrigerator and stove from the 1950s. There are toy cars and trucks, wagon, dolls, dishes and more. They will bring back memories of your childhood and a smile on your face.

Museum hours are Friday and Saturday 12:30-4 p.m. Admission is free.

For more information, visit the Buffalo Island Museum's Facebook page.

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