Lincoln Furniture - for the 20th Century Art Deco Doll House
by George Mundorf and Patty Cooper
This article is about our wood furniture of choice. It is lighter than air: an Art Deco confection that could have been made for Nick and Nora Charles and their New York City 1930's penthouse!
J. L. Wright, Inc. was established in Chicago by John L. Wright, son of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The company’s most famous product was Lincoln Logs, but for a short time, about 1936-1937, they also made dollhouse furniture.
The furniture is made from painted wood and steel wire (and, surprisingly, thumb tacks and staples!) in the Moderne style that was current in the late 1930s. This furniture, unmarked, is difficult to find and its rarity may be explained by the short time of its production and the extreme modernity of its style. Little girls were probably put off by the fact that it was so very different from the furniture they were accustomed to seeing in their own environment. While we find this furniture exciting and evocative, they probably saw it as strange.
A Butler Brothers catalog from 1936 lists four rooms: an 8-piece living room, 10-piece dining room, 6-piece kitchen, and 9-piece bedroom. In addition, a 1936 ad from Child Life magazine mentions a “sun room” with an unknown number of pieces (although we think there are six). We have been unable to find an actual boxed set. No bathroom was made.
Lincoln living room. Photo © Patty Cooper
The living room (shown in the Butler Brothers catalog) includes a green couch, green chair and ottoman, black console radio, green table (also found in red), and a cream grand piano with bench. There is some uncertainty about the piano bench as those that have been found with the piano do not exactly match the cantilevered leg style shown in the ads. There is also a floor lamp that is quite unusual: tall, delicate and exuberant. The gold shade resembles a rather large flower that sits atop a wire which forms a swirling circular pattern at its base.
Lincoln living room. Photo © George Mundorf
Detail of Lincoln console radio. Photo © George Mundorf
The bedroom is in pink and light blue or the more dramatic red and black. The chair and two beds are usually light blue, while the vanity and stool, night stand, and chest of drawers are in pink. A chest of drawers is known in cream. The set includes both a floor lamp (the same as the living room lamp) and a table lamp. Small and compact, it looks more like a half of a blue wood ball held by a wire which forms a small circle at its base.
Lincoln bedroom set. Photo © Patty Cooper
The dramatic black and red set has a deep red bed with all the other pieces in black. (The chair could be red or black). We have seen an exciting variation of the chest of drawers with a triptych mirror. This has been found in black and pink. A vanity, stool and night stand have been found in green.
Lincoln bedroom set. Photo © George Mundorf
The dining room, as shown in Child Life magazine, would look quite at home in a high-profile corporate boardroom. It has a long table surrounded by six chairs (their incised lines suggest a leather look) on wire bases, an over-sized buffet, and a small server. The whole set has been found in red, while chairs are also known in black and green. The dining table is black and wide enough for the six chairs to slide beneath. A narrower table in red has also been found and we have included it in the dining room, but, in truth, we are not sure where it belongs. There is a floor lamp shown as being part of this grouping and it is identical to the one in the bedroom.
Lincoln dining room. Photo © George Mundorf
Lincoln dining room pieces. Photo © Patty Cooper
Although the kitchen is not shown in any known source, we know that it includes a stove (red or cream), sink (green and black or green and cream), refrigerator (green or cream), and a table with two bench seats in green. Note that the stove (again on a wire base) has a wire piece coming up over the back of the range. This wire is supposed to hold a small horizontal piece of rubberized sponge which represents a stove light. Delicate to the extreme, this piece is usually missing (as it is in the photo.)
Lincoln kitchen. Photo © Patty Cooper
Lincoln stove. Photo © George Mundorf
From the box top of the one boxed set we've seen, we have surmised that the “Sun Room” contains a black desk and red armless chair, an armed chair with stool in green, and a night table in black with a green table lamp (which we've never seen).
Sun room set. Photo © George Mundorf
In addition, an ironer has been found in black and cream. This might logically be found in a kitchen, but would be the seventh piece in a set which the Butler Brothers catalogs lists as having only six. Once again, we can speculate that perhaps some pieces were sold separately or that other sets with different pieces were also sold.
Kitchen with ironer on left. Photo © George Mundorf
With only 1 boxed set to give us clues as to what comprises a room (we've only seen two boxed sets on eBay in 10 years), we can only guess as to what was originally included. New pieces and color variations are bound to be discovered. Neither the ironer nor the desk are mentioned in the literature and only a few examples of those pieces have been found. The lamps are also quite difficult to find intact. Our knowledge of Lincoln furniture is a work in progress and we look forward to finding out more about this elusive set.
Patty - Gardenmont@aol.com
George – firstname.lastname@example.org,
[A special thank you to Don and JoAn Belanger, Barb Woods, Becky Norris, Dian Zillner and Geraldine Scott. A version of this article was first published in Dollhouse Toys n' US (www.dollhousetoysnus.org)]