Return to Wonderland
by Florine Bettge
This is my Wonderland Doll's House, made by Schmidt Lithograph Company of San Francisco, California, and sold around 1930.
Lithographed onto cardboard, this house folds flat to a depth of 1". It is 25" tall, 30" wide and when set up is 9½” deep. Each of the six rooms measure 6¾" by 8¾ " with a height of 6". The alcoves in the back of each room add an additional 2½" by 5" space. It is a perfect size for my Tootsietoy furniture.
Antique and Collectible Dollhouses and Their Furnishings by Dian Zillner & Patty Cooper indicates this house originally came with one-dimensional cardboard furniture. Even though my house came in its original box, no furniture was included.
Here is the back of the house....
and on the back are the instructions for setting up the house.
I love the lithographs in this house....pictures on walls, carpets on floors, wall sconces, tile in kitchen, and of course all the furniture from the 1920s decade...bookcases, chairs, beds, appliances, and a lovely bay window in the living room. Each floor has a center wall for stability with a large opening into the adjoining room....with lithographed "pretend" curtains to close if privacy is needed! Besides the craftsman style windows in the larger room area, each alcove has window cut-outs in the shape of a tie-back curtain. Wonderland has some splits, tears and crinkles, but for 84 years this little house is still in presentable shape.
A little family has moved in to this delightful dollhouse and brought furnishings with them. Tootsietoy furniture, made of a metal alloy, was produced by the Dowst Brothers Company of Chicago, Illinois from approximately 1922 to 1937. I have seen vintage catalog ads from 1940 showing both the 1922 and 1930 models of furniture still being sold. This fragile furniture was made in ½" to 1' scale and modeled after early 1920s furniture. In 1930 the company brought out new models that reflected the changes that had occurred in real furniture. This newer line included pieces with working parts. Because the furniture was small, the metal alloy was not especially strong and many pieces are now found with missing legs or other parts. The paint did not adhere to the metal well, so many pieces are found with chipped or missing paint. I'm quite sure I don't have a pristine piece in my collection.
All the pieces in the dining room, with the exception of the tea trolley, are a part of the models introduced in 1930. In some vintage ads this table is shown with the older style dining chairs. The triangular china cabinets have celluloid "glass" and the tiny shelves are only large enough to hold colored beads....don't tell my peeps.
The work table on the right with the support bars between the legs is part of the original kitchen set from 1922. The other pieces are from their 1930 production line...the Hoosier cabinet with opening doors and drawer, the stove with an oven door that opens, the sink table updated with the sink now in the middle position, the fridge with opening door and shelves, the table without support bars, and the updated office style chairs. The housekeeper, Hilda, is a little bisque doll made in Japan.
I see the lady of the house, Mrs. Leona Falstaff, is thinking about playing the piano. Leona is a bisque doll from Germany. The floor lamp, library table, and Victrola (radio/record player) are from the earlier production line. The piano came in a complete set of the new line of living room furniture and also in a set referred to as the music room which also included a chair and ottoman, side table, drop-shade lamp, and the newer model of radio. The painted surfaces of the gilt pieces seem to have weathered the years much better than the other painted models.
Mr. Arthur Falstaff put his book down and is on his way to the kitchen to get a tall cool one...or maybe to get his flask out of the pot plant while Leona is not looking. The parlor furniture is from the 1930 production line with the exception of the lamp from the original series. These pieces with the crackled surface also came with a solid flocked surface. The lithographed rug is a great match with this set.
This is the 1930 line of bedroom furniture with the exception of the vanity and chair from the original 1922 series. I also have the metal bedspreads in lavender with green designs and in a solid pink flocked.
In the bedroom shared by the Falstaff daughters, we find little Dorothy playing with her baby doll while big sister Ruth is playing with their little kitty, Snowball. The beds and dresser are from the 1922 series while the chair is a flocked item from the 1930 line.
Now for the alcoves.....
Great 1920s graphics in this house ... all the pieces are from the original 1922 series.
There are no bathroom graphics in this vintage house. I love the claw-foot tub from the original series. The bathroom set also included a medicine cabinet, chair, stool and 2 towel racks.
This is the sofa from the 1922 production line .... it is hidden behind the piano in the music room on the second floor. That's a tobacco felt rug I used for the pillow. My paternal grandmother had a sofa just like this ... in ebony wood with large brown/black pillows. We were allowed to sit in the parlor, as she called it, if we played quietly ... and of course if we weren't hot and sweaty as children usually are. Remembering now, she also had a radio/ record player just like this one.
The library table is the same design as the dining table but on a smaller scale and from the 1930 production line. The desk is not marked, but is shown in their 1924-25 catalog. It is thought that Tootsietoy included in their marketing some items that were produced in France since pieces similar to Tootsietoy are found engraved with FRANCE. The urn and clock are German or French items from the same era.
The alcove behind the dining room contains a serving table from 1922 along with a dining chair from the 1930 series of furniture. Leona finds this the perfect place to keep up with her correspondence. The table lamp is actually a buffet/library table from the Tootsietoy Midgets line that was produced in the scale of approximately ¼" to 1'. Two sets of Midgets can be seen on page 91 of Dian Zillner's American Dollhouses and Furniture from the 20th Century.
In the kitchen alcove we find the stove with opening oven door and the fridge with monitor top, both from the 1930 series. Here you get a good view of the cut out window that is found in each alcove.
My 1922 bathroom set...
the advertisement is from a vintage catalog of 1929 and the price is wholesale.
Bedroom set from 1922 series from a 1929 wholesale catalog.
This bedroom set was from the 1930 series...
and the price reflects how much the set sold for wholesale in 1936.
The living room set from the 1930 series....
seen in a 1936 wholesale catalog.
The small pieces in the center of the box are extremely hard to find.
Some of the specialty pieces as seen in a 1924-25 catalog.
Sofa and serving table from the 1922 series from a 1929 wholesale catalog. You can see here what was included with the complete set.
From a 1936 wholesale catalog .... the updated "modern" kitchen from the 1930 series produced by Tootsietoy.
And the 1930 series dining room furniture.....
also from a 1936 wholesale catalog.
The Falstaffs....Leona, Arthur, Ruth and little Dorothy.
They came to me as a set, and I like to think they have been together as a family for at least the last 80+ years. Little Dorothy even has pantaloons on under her fancy dress.
They range in size from 3" down to 2¼". Markings on upper backs that I can't decipher, but I think they are from Germany.
Right after I wrote this article, I was lucky enough to win some of the small accessories that were included with the room sets.
From the 1936 dining room set...
Candlesticks and compote
Covered footed dish with cups and saucers
A pitcher, a tea pot, and a chalice.
From a 1936 wholesale catalog. Notice that the top row of accessories in the catalog does not match the actual ones in the complete dining set pictured below.
Boxed set of Tootsietoy dining room furniture. Photos © Roy Specht
These pictures are from a boxed set in the collection of Roy Specht. He has generously allowed me to share these pictures with you. Many treasures from Roy's collection can be seen in the dollhouse books published by Dian Zillner and Patty Cooper.
Pitchers with celluloid inserts.
Wholesale catalog from 1936 showing the boxed bedroom set with pitcher.
The clock that was included with the complete living room set in this 1936 catalog. I have seen several replicas of this clock .... one being sold by the craft store Lee Wards in the 1970s.
If you have any of the accessories and would like to share pictures, please contact me at the email address shown on my profile page of my blog.
All the information in this post comes from Dian Zillner's wonderful books on dollhouses ...... American Dollhouses and Furniture From the 20th Century and (with Patty Cooper) Antique & Collectible Dollhouses and Their Furnishings, and also from vintage catalogs of the N. Shure Co. of Chicago and the Shapleigh Hardware Co. of St. Louis.
Please visit my blog My Vintage Dollhouses to see more of my collection!