C. Moritz Reichel Dolls Houses of the 1950s and ‘60s
by diepuppenstubensammlerin with Rebecca Green
A Short History
The toy factory C. Moritz Reichel in the Erzgebirge (the Ore Mountains) existed from 1883 to 1972, when it was nationalized by the East German Government like all remaining privately owned companies.
In 1958, the firm celebrated its 75th anniversary with a commemorative publication. The following information comes from that booklet.
The village of Niederlauterstein in the Ore Mountains, at the foot of which the ruins of the Lauterstein Castle stand, shared with Olbernhau, Seiffen and Grünhainichen the good reputation of the Erzgebirge toy country.
In 1883, Carl Moritz Reichel started producing wooden toys in a single storey cottage in Niederlauterstein, with the help of 5 or 6 men. Initially, manpower drove a circular saw, but by 1888, a steam engine had been installed. Pine trees – the tree of the Ore Mountains – supplied the wood. Until 1920, the goods were delivered to the wholesaler at Grünhainichen and Olbernhau, sometimes by the wife of the founder who did the five-hour walk carrying the goods in a pack on her back. The machinery was continually updated [one hopes the transport was too], and the workforce grew: the number of employees had increased to 75 by the beginning of World War 2.
At the time of publication, in 1958, the company had 62 employees. A full rolling gate (an automatic saw device system) had been installed in 1946, and an artificial wood drying system in 1957.
In 1924, the founder Carl Moritz Reichel had transferred the operation to his sons Max and Ewald. They were still the owners in 1958, while since 1948 the manager had been Gottfried Reichel, Max Reichel’s son and Carl Moritz’s grandson.
The company produced the same kinds of toys over the years, updating only the details: their shops and dolls houses were always realistic imitations of the latest building styles.
In spring 1920, the company was represented for the first time at the Leipzig Toy Fair. The manager himself represented the company at the fair, and thus on the world market. They also went to the Nuremberg exhibition after it started in 1949. The first foreign buyers came from the Netherlands in 1920, followed by Italy, England and Switzerland. In 1958, by far the largest part of their production was destined for export: besides going to West Germany, the goods also went to Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy and Switzerland.
Listing in the 1964 Leipzig toy fair catalogue
In the late 1950s, the firm was a still a capitalist company in a socialist state, but this was not mentioned in the 75th anniversary publication except in the last sentence:
"... owners, managers and employees will remain eager to help consolidate the reputation of our young socialist state as an export company by the quality of their products (...) no other export product is as appropriate as the toy, to be the messenger of domestic happiness and advocate of peace! "
In 1972, along with the other remaining privately owned toy manufacturers, the factory was expropriated and transferred into public ownership. Toy production continued at the site until 1992. The former Reichel factory still stood in the town of Niederlauterstein until just recently – the factory smokestack was demolished at the end of February this year (2015).
Dolls Houses, Roomboxes and Dolls Shops of the 1950s and 60s
The commemorative publication provides us with a look behind the scenes at the production process.
"In the painting room the toy receives charming paintwork."
" Clever hands make the dolls houses, dolls rooms and horse stables ready for occupancy in the wallpapering room and the finishing room, and smarten up the shops for the “Opening Days” and the puppet theatres for their “Premieres”."
"As a prerequisite for production, numerous orders had already been concluded in the display room."
A large dolls house can be seen on the right of this photo, and various roomboxes and shops are displayed on the shelves at the left.
A large house with a pillared portico similar to the one in the display room appears in this ad from 1957. (From 'Das Spielzeug'.)
This ad from 1958 shows the identical house to the one in the display room of the factory. Note the brown wooden door frames, and the two bars across the lower centre of the door glass. (From 'Das Spielzeug'.)
A shop by C. Moritz Reichel in the usual scale of about 1:12, of no spectacular design. There is much space for displaying objects though, especially as the drawers in the centre are missing. It is a toy which was played with, e.g. there also used to be transparent sliding doors in front of the shelves above and on the left. Many old shops lack the sales counter because it was usually not fixed – here it is luckily still there and you can see the decorated transparent plastic in the show case which certainly was the same material the missing sliding doors were made of, as can be seen in this photo from 1961:
This large Reichel house from the mid 1950s has the same doors as those in the ads above, and large picture window is made of the same transparent plastic with cross-hatching that was used for the sliding doors of the shop counter and shelving.
Inside, we find a radiator and curtain pelmet which we will see in roomboxes below.
This catalogue picture, found by Jörg of das Puppenhausmuseum, shows a roombox with a bedroom and en suite bathroom, a living room and a roof terrace - from the first half of the sixties.
Photo © Jörg Bohn dasPuppenhausmuseum
Jörg says “I was able to buy a catalog in which the 'C. Moritz Reichel KG Wood Toy Factory - 9341 Lower Lauenstein [Lauterstein???] / Erzgebirge" (DDR) is given as the manufacturer of this room.
In this model, the bathroom is on the inside of the left room. It is furnished as a livingroom - I have had the same problem when trying to put the bedroom pieces in the angled room.
Another catalogue photo from around 1961, unfortunately a poor copy. The bathroom was on the side of the room and the window was at the back. The left room is again furnished as a living room! The furniture is by Wichtelmarke.
An example of the room box from the Bruchsal Collection.
Note the wooden window with a broad sill for flowers, and the wooden door. The bathroom was originally separated by a curtain.
The balustrade looks like metal, but is stamped from thick cardboard.
A Reichel door from the 60s - a distinguishing feature that may help identify other roomboxes.
In this private photo we see the roombox with the position of the rooms reversed.
Another ad from 1957 shows a roombox with several characteristic features of Reichel at this period:
A 1957 catalogue listing of a split level roombox with roof terrace (here furnished with Crailsheimer furniture). Scan © Jörg Bohn das Puppenhausmuseum
Luckily, we know of three examples of this very roombox, so we can examine the features in detail.
Photo ©Jörg Bohn dasPuppenhausmuseum
Roombox in the Michno collection, Jakobsweiler Museum.
Roombox in the Borbeck collection.
The elegantly curved terrace railings made of stamped cardboard make it easy to recognise a product of C. Moritz Reichel. In this room, they are also used to define the elevated living area. Note also the stepped front edge of the base board.
All three examples have identical dolls house floor papers – parquet flooring on the lower level, and bright multi-coloured tiling in the upper level. Note the window pelmets made of striped dark and light wood, different from the wood grain veneer pelmet of the roombox with bathroom.
The railing of the heating radiator is also made of stamped cardboard. The blue abstract and yellow floral curtain fabrics each appear in two of the examples. One has another fabric, white with a lavender and pink floral design. Fine netting covers the expanse of the windows. The walls are covered with what appear to be full-size wallpapers in neutral colours.
This little 1950s kitchen made of wood has a noteworthy patio or balcony - what a wonderful idea for having breakfast outside. The painting of the room box, its floor, walls and window drapes, are all in original condition. The kitchen furniture is by Wichtelmarke.
I discovered my doll's kitchen in an old toy catalogue - also with Wichtelmarke kitchen furnishings. Now I am sure of the maker of the kitchen, too, because the floor paper in the catalogue photo is different to mine. It is a typical C. Moritz Reichel pattern, as seen in the three examples of the split-level roombox above.
I have furnished my kitchen almost as it looks on the photo in the toy catalogue. I had to exchange the sink and the working table because there was not enough space.
For this double roombox we do not have catalogue evidence to date it or confirm its identity:
The features that help us identify it as by C. Moritz Reichel are the window pelmet, the door, with its distinctive handle, and the stepped edge of the baseboard:
While the living room flooring is not a design we have seen in the other roomboxes, the bedroom flooring is familiar. Again, the wallpapers are full-size, in beige.
As well as very modern styles, C. Moritz Reichel produced this chalet. It has the same doors as shown in the 1957 and 1958 ads above.
Reichel chalet in the Borbeck collection
On the end is the characteristic Reichel curved railing, made of the usual stamped cardboard.
Inside are the original beige wallpapers, bright curtains, and very worn flooring (green with brightly coloured speckles, and creamy yellow with brightly coloured speckles).
Reichel chalet kitchen (above) and bedroom (below).
Finally, a glimpse of another double roombox with a roof terrace, and the added feature of stairs to ascend to the rooftop!
Roombox in the collection of WK, Niederrhein
Unless otherwise stated, all photos in this article are © diepuppenstubensammlerin.