Rich Manufacturing Company Dollhouses
by Rita Goranson
Rich Tudor cottage, mid 1930s. Photo © Florine Bettge
On January 21, 1935, the Rich Illinois Manufacturing Company filed the papers for the purchase of the Iowa Furniture Mfg. Co building in Clinton, Iowa, United States. Thus began the history of the Rich Manufacturing Company in Iowa. Finally, the economy was beginning to improve from the Depression. The Rich Manufacturing Company, as the company was renamed after the move, had secured the bid for making castles to be sold with the display of the actress Colleen Moore's miniature castle that would be touring the country. The purchase of the building in Clinton and the move of the company from Illinois to Clinton was the beginning of making doll castles, dollhouses, and forts for the company. It would add to their line of toys already established by the company, which was started by brothers Maurice E Rich and Edward M Rich in 1921 in Illinois. It was hoped that this new direction would boost sales. Several companies were making dollhouses at the time, but these houses were of paper construction or were built of solid construction. The Rich dollhouses were made to be shipped flat and then, with simple instructions, the pieces could be put together quickly to make a solid dollhouse for playtime.
Rich Cottage, 1930s. Above: front; below: back. Photos © Florine Bettge
The houses started out rather plain, however the company very soon began silk screening details to make them more attractive to little girls. Various styles were available to purchase including a deco house in the thirties and many Tudor style houses.
Rich Tudor house, 1930s. Above: exterior; below: interior. Photos © Florine Bettge
Rich large Tudor house with garage, 1939. Photo © Florine Bettge
The most popular house was the colonial house that came in several sizes. During World War II, production slowed down as lumber was needed in the war effort. After the war, the company was producing 100,000 houses a year in addition to the production of other toys.
Rich colonial house. Photo © Rita Goranson
Production of doll houses continued into the fifties, but not only was there competition from other firms, like Keystone, Jayline, and others, but metal houses by the Marx Company were cutting into the Rich Manufacturing sales. In 1953, Rich Manufacturing Company made the decision to move the company south where lumber was closer and less expensive. They moved the plant to Tupelo, Mississippi, thus ending eighteen years in Iowa. In Mississippi the company continued toy and dollhouse production including ranch houses. The final type of dollhouse made was a futuristic dollhouse. A flood in 1962 destroyed the plant and the doors were closed on the company at this time.
Rich ranch house, 1950. Photo © Florine Bettge
Rich house, late 1950s. Photo © Florine Bettge
JoAnn Belanger, Rita Goranson, and Patty Cooper are working on a book about the dollhouses made by Rich Manufacturing. Their hope is to show every dollhouse and most of the buildings made by the company. So far, they have identified over a hundred houses, but they are still looking for advertisements and actual examples of other houses. Many collectors have noted the similarities between Rich and Keystone doll houses, and the difficulty in distinguishing them. In their book, the authors delve into the features identifying Rich doll houses and explain some of the identification problems.
Rich Tudor house. Photo © Rita Goranson
If you have (or think you might have) a Rich dollhouse or building or any information about the company, they would be very grateful for your assistance. Please contact Patty at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Rita at email@example.com, or JoAnn at firstname.lastname@example.org.