G. & J. Lines and Lines Bros. (Triang) - Part 1
by Wendy Gater
Above: G. & J lines Dolls House 1910, sold through Hamleys
G. & J. Lines was founded by brothers George ( born in 1841)and Joseph Lines (born in 1848). In 1876 they were based at 457, Caledonian Road, London, they had the largest toy factory in Great Britain at this time, one of their most popular products originally were rocking horses. In 1887 G. & J. Lines applied for a patent for a toy horse invention. By 1895 G. & J. Lines owned several other small factories in North London.
It is believed they began making dolls houses during the 1890's. Joseph was the business minded part of the partnership whilst George was the artistic of the two. George left the business in the 1890's although his initial continued to be used.
By the early 1900's they were producing many different houses, they varied from simple plain cottages, flat fronted town houses to grand elaborate mansions. The large grand mansion design of houses were very distinctive with balconies also large bay windows and porches both with added architectural detail above and they often had fine gold paint detail to window frames and decorative woodwork.
G. & J. Lines were the market leaders in England at this time, they supplied some of the larger stores such as Gamages and Whiteleys with Dolls Houses made to their specific requirements. To give an indication of the price of these houses, one of the grandest mansion houses, a Lines no24 known as a Kits Coty house was priced in their catalogue of 1909 - 10 at 75s (£3.75 $18.25) which was a lot of money at this time.
These wooden made dolls houses were substantially made, they were heavy, strong and built to cope with heavy childplay. The fact that so many of these houses have survived today proves how well they were constructed.
G. & J. Lines offered to make dolls houses to special specifications, customers were offered a variety of extra fittings, some of these being an electric doorbell, electric lights and running water piped from a tank on the roof to the bathroom. Water could also be supplied to the kitchen and this was cheaper if a bathroom was also fitted. One of the most popular wallpapers used was a simple striped paper in browns, blue and green. Blue and cream tiles were often used in the kitchens and a red and gold design was liked in dining-rooms.
Joseph did little to change the styles of his houses, once they were popular, as can be seen from the 1910 catalogue which still featured many designs over 15 years old. Having trained his workmen to plane particular mouldings and having found a cheap supply of wallpapers and curtain fabric, he continued to use them with little regard for fashion.
However G. & J. Lines were not always old-fashioned: they produced a country residence house with a garden and a garage, at a time when few families owned a car; the garage and garden were not attached, simply laid in place.
It was around 1910 that G. & J. Lines began to simplify their designs; many of the grand ornate details had now disappeared, although the houses were still of very appealing designs.
The G. & J.Lines trademark was a thistle (G & J Ltd London in a circle around a thistle) the exact date this was actually introduced is unclear to me, it was registered in 1910, however the 1931 G. & J Lines catalogue mentions the fact that "Thistle Brand Toys" had been world renowned for over fifty years, this would suggest the trademark would have been used much earlier.
Joseph had employed his four sons, George, William, Walter and Arthur as soon as they left school,they were not spared the unpleasant side of the factory work. They were sent to evening classes at Camden School of Arts and attended building, carpentry and cabinet making classes so that they could develop as all-around toy-makers and businessmen.
In 1919 Walter, Arthur and George returned from the First World War, William had stayed behind and had carried on working with his father, they were full of new ideas but Joseph was a typical Victorian father and set in his ways. In this same year William, Walter and Arthur set up on their own to form a new company, Lines Bros, which used the trade name Triangtois, later abbreviated to Tri-ang.
Despite the fact that Joseph's sons had set up their own company, they all appeared to have remained on good terms.The original firm of G. & J. Lines continued in business until Joseph's death on 31st December 1931, then the company merged with Tri-ang.
Highly recommend Marion Osborne's book "Lines and Tri-ang Dollshouses." Details of how to purchase this book are on the "For Sale: Books and Mags" section.
Lines and Triang Trademarks