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Dolls' Houses
Past & Present

A website and ezine about dolls' houses: antique, vintage and modern.
Plus furniture and accessories.

Issue 31 (October 2019)

Albin Schönherr - a chronology

by diePuppenstubensammlerin, edited by Rebecca Green

In the late 1800s, Albin Schönherr worked for the dolls house manufacturer Moritz Gottschalk, in the small town of Marienberg in the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) of Germany. By about 1893, Schönherr had established his own business making dolls houses in the neighbouring village of Niederlauterstein.

Village of Niederlauterstein, Erzgebirge, winter 2010

Niederlauterstein, winter 2010. Photo by Sebastian Weigelt. (CC BY-SA 3.0)(CC BY-SA 3.0)

This chronology of Schönherr's dolls houses will focus mainly on my preferred period, the mid-century decades, with a brief glimpse of the 1920s.

1920s

In the encyclopedia Lexikon der Puppenstuben und Puppenhäuser (Lexicon of Roomboxes and Dolls Houses) by Swantje Koehler, many Schönherr catalogue pictures from 1922 can be seen, and so these two roomboxes (from Katharina's collection) can be easily identified by the terminal pilasters at the front of each wall.

Schoenherr 1920s decorative two-room roombox

Exactly this living room/bedroom room box (above) is pictured in the lexicon. Just below it, on page 175, we see furniture by Schönherr in this colour combination of 1922: red-purple.

This roombox (above) has a simpler design, with very plain terminals. It does have the typical Schönherr "crowned" curtain pelmets, and a vertical striped wall paper pattern typical of the 1920s.

In the same 1922 catalogue, several dolls houses are also shown. The small cottage shown below is on page 171 of the Lexikon der Puppenstuben und Puppenhäuser:

Photo © Dollshouserestoration

The doll's house below is known as the Schönherr Housefold, as the house and garden walls can be disassembled and packed away into the base. It was also Advertised in 1922, sold in the UK by Eisenmann & Coadvertised in 1922, and distributed in the UK by Eisenmann & Co.Schönherr HousefoldSchönherr Housefold

Albin Schönherr 1920s Housefold dolls house

Photo © Alicia Davies

Before WWII, German manufacturers of dolls houses, doll kitchens and roomboxes usually offered most of their products in several sizes - there was no one common scale. In the Lexikon, Schönherr catalogue listings from the 1920s offer a "roombox with white gazebo" in widths of  55, 65, 75, 86, or 98 cm. However after 1945 most manufacturers had only one or two scales on sale.

1930s

These two Schönherr room boxes probably date from before the war. Set one on top of the other, we have a good opportunity to compare scales and sizes.

Two Schönherr roomboxes of different scales on on top of the other

Schönherr 2 roomboxes of different scales - short end with porches

Smaller 1930s Schönherr 2 room roombox w porch

In the roombox above, the curtains and pelmets are original, whereas the wallpaper and the paint might have been renewed decades ago, as was traditional when a dolls house was passed on to a new generation. The original floor paper has gone, too, but in rooms as small as this a carpet can easily disguise this flaw. In the roombox below, on the other hand, we have the original wall paper and flooring, but not the original curtains.

Schönherr roombox 2 rooms with wintergarden, 1930s to 1950s

We don't see the internal doors clearly in the photos above. They are solid, as can be seen in the pre-war toy prospectus below left. Other roomboxes of the same period had doors with an inset half-window, as we see in the photos below right.

1930s Schönherr greyscale ad for 2 room roombox with solid door and different patio Detail of 1930s Schönherr roombox with door with cut-out detail 1930s Schönherr 2 room roombox w cut-out detail on door

Ad (left) courtesy Jörg, Daspuppenhausmuseum. Dolls house photos (centre and right) courtesy ebay seller.

The roombox below is from the catalogue of the exhibition Traumwelten der Fünfziger Jahre (Dream World of the Fifties). It has the same style of porch or verandah as in the advertisement just above, although the walls, floors and windows have been redecorated.

1930s Schönherr 2 room roombox with different patio

1940s

A photo (below) in the German National Archives allows us to date this Schönherr dolls house precisely, to November 1948, showing the set-up for a Christmas fair.

Man adjusting dolls on Schönherr dolls house in 1948 photo from German National Archives

(CC BY-SA 3.0)(CC BY-SA 3.0 Germany)

The same model appeared on ebay in 2010. The house in the archival photo above has the name Christa, while the one shown below has the name Ingrid. Note the opening windows with metal frames.

Haus Ingrid, large ca 1948 with large upper balcony and semi-enclosed porch on one side, smaller roof terrace on the other

The very simple two-room roombox below has the same type of metal opening windows, and perhaps also dates from the late 1940s.

Plain two room Schönherr roombox with metal windows, dated 1948

Below, we see a more elaborate roombox and different windows, but the same floorpaper design, suggesting that this is also from the same period.

1930s Schönherr two room roombox with central roofed alcove

1950s

An Albin Schönherr catalogue from 1952 shows a roombox very similar to those from the 1930s, so it appears that the pre-war and post-war designs were very similar. The corner window of the bedroom, the window decoration, the wooden trims, the wall paper - all characteristics of Schönherr of this period. This roombox has two large rooms with a smaller central section, in which a toilet is built in under stairs which lead up to a roof terrace.

1952 Schönherr catalogue image of 3 room roombox, the central section with an enclosed toilet under stairs to a roof terrace

1940s or 50s Schönherr simple 2 storey dolls houses called Gisela Maria Karin and Eika

Schönherr named other models with girls' names in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Above we see the same model with four names: Gisela, Maria, Karin and Erika. Below, the interior of Haus Maria, with original wallpapers, floorpapers and window dressing.

Inside of 1950s Schönherr Maria dolls house

Below is another Gisela: the same basic design as the four above, but with single storey wings on both sides and flat roofs with terraces above all three sections of the house. Below the larger Gisela is Haus Sonnhild - a less common girl's name meaning 'Sun battle'. This appears in a 1951 catalogue of toys for export from the East German state of Saxony, which helpfully names the firms producing the dolls houses and furnishings at the end of the catalogue. Many of the details are the same - the design of the shutters, the three-paned windows with wooden frames and a central opening pane - but the balcony railings are metal rods, as seen in the 1948 photo above of the large Haus Christa above.

1950s Schönherr large Gisela open extension on left closed extension on right 3 roof terraces including flat rooftop

Large early 1950s Schönherr dolls house called Sonnhild

From 1957, we have ads for a small cottage. It has just two rooms, and is small in scale, too. Both ads show a single window upstairs, with a balcony. One ad shows two windows downstairs, with window boxes under each and shutters on both sides. The other ad shows a long window downstairs, with a matching long window box and a shutter on each end. Both models have a small garden, though one is fenced at the front and side, and the other at the side and back.

1957 greyscale catalogue pic of Schönherr small cottage 1957 greyscale catalogue pic of Schönherr small cottage

Below is an example of this cottage, with a single long window - though without the windowbox.

1957 Schönherr cottage with single long window downstairs

The balcony railing is made of perforated tin. In the ads above, the fences had straight wooden palings - here, the fence has the same pattern as the balcony railing, but made of wood. The interior of this cottage has the original floorpapers, a speckled lino pattern typical of Schönherr in the early 1950s.SchönherrSchönherrSchönherr

Two rooms inside 1957 Schönherr cottage, which is open at the back

In 1958 and 1959, we see some changes. From 1958, we have two ads, for very similar bungalows:

1958 Schönherr bungalow in catalogue 1 1958 Schönherr bungalow in catalogue 2

Ads courtesy Jörg, Daspuppenhausmuseum

The ad on the left describes it as a "Large dollhouse with terrace, two rooms, French doors, flower window and lamp for battery connection. Base dimensions approx. 69 x 43cm." Price DM 29,50. The ad on the right has the description, "This large, modern doll house has 2 rooms and a veranda." "I have to say, here dolls can live really modern!" Price: DM 35

Below, we see a bungalow like the one in the ad on the left:

Circa 1958 Schönherr bungalow

The large house below appears in an ad for Schönherr at the 1959 International Toy Fair at Nuremberg, which appeared in the toy trade magazine Das Spielzeug.

Schönherr ad in toy trade magazine in 1959 showing large dolls house with garden, wintergarden and roof terrace

Here is an example of this model:

Example of 1959 Schönherr dolls house with wintergarden, roof terrace and garden

Note that the design of the shutters has changed. In the 1940s and early 1950s, the shutters were green, with five louvres printed at the top, and a painted design of a heart below them. Now, whether green as in the ad, or brown as in this model, the shutters are entirely printed with louvres. Some windows are still of glass with wooden frames, but the curved window of the wintergarden is plastic. The fence and balcony railing are also in plastic, printed with the 1920s crossed circle design.

Inside upper room of 1959 Schönherr house

Inside this 1959 house, we see the same green floorpaper as in the 1957 cottage, and window pelmets with a diagonal stripe which we have seen earlier, in the 1951 catalogue and 1952 ad above.

The house below has the same plastic (glass) wall around the wintergarden, and printed plastic balcony railings - but has the earlier shutter design. Another very similar model below that has solid balcony railings. Perhaps different components were introduced at different times, or the factory used up remainders.

Circa 1958 Schönherr house with two extensions, earlier shutters and plastic wintergarden wall1950s Schönherr house with two extensions Gröner und HellerFrom 1959, we also have a roombox with new floorpapers.

1959 Schönherr two room roombox with colourful lino squares floorpaper

 

1959 Schönherr double roombox with brown window pelmet and black background lino floorpaper

Here we see clearly the new floorpaper design, representing squares of streaky lino. Above, the predominantly black squares are interspersed with blue, grey and red squares. Below, blue is the main colour, with a scattering of black, grey and red squares. We also see the window pelmets in great detail. The diagonal stripe we have seen before is revealed as slightly irregular cream-coloured splodges on a brown background. The other room has orange pelmets with rough silvering.

1959 Schönherr double roombox with orange window pelmet and blue background lino floorpaper

The roombox below was shown in the Dream World of the Fifties exhibition. We recognise the curtain pelmets and floorpapers from examples above - and this roombox reveals another colourway of the floorpaper, with a beige background. At the front left of the roombox, a flower window has been constructed with the same plastic used for the wintergardens in the models above. Below the large window in the room on the left we can just make out the blondwood panelling with a random pattern of small round holes, which hides the heating.

Circa 1958 Schönherr roombox with flower window shown in Dreamworld exhibition by Ingeborg Michno

1960s

1962 photo of toy shop West Germany with Schönherr bungalow on left

A black and white photo taken in a toy shop in 1962 reveals a Schönherr bungalow in the bottom left, which has a long window curving around the corner of the house, a slightly sloping, single pitched roof, and a striped cloth awning over the French windows which open to the crazy paving terrace. A very similar design is seen in a colour catalogue from the 1960s, below.

Circa 1960 Schönherr bungalow colour ad in Kadewe

We have another ad from a 1962 issue of the trade magazine Das Spielzeug, which shows a very modern bungalow with a "butterfly" roof:

1962 schönherr bungalow with butterfly roof in ad in das spielzeug 1008

Below we see how colourful this model is, with the window frames painted orange and yellow:

1962 Schönherr bungalow with butterfly roof front of house

1962 Schönherr butterfly roof end with zigzag string for trellis

At one end is a wooden pergola and a trellis made of plastic string attached in a zigzag pattern. At the other end is a door into the interior (which is actually open at the back!)

1962 Schönherr bungalow with butterfly roof end with door

1963 Schönherr roombox with covered patio in ad in Das Spielzeug

The roombox, below, is dated to 1963 by an ad which appeared in Das Spielzeug that year. Many features are familiar. The left end combines a flower window and a pergola with a roof terrace:

1963 same Schönherr roombox with covered patio as in ad

A 1963 ad, below, shows a large dolls house very similar to those available throughout the 1950s.

1963 large Schönherr dolls house in Demusa ad in Das Spielzeug

Another more modern style appears in a catalogue from 1964. The flat roof and one window are both constructed as quadrilaterals, with three right angles and one acute angle, introducing the 1960s love of geometric patterns into the structure of the building!

1964 Schönherr ad Haus Andrea

1964 same Schönherr house as in ad, from front

Two examples of similar houses show how colourful these models were, too, combining pastel pink, blue and yellow with primary red, blue and yellow. The balcony railings are plastic printed with new railing patterns, one using diamond shapes and the other a curved zig zag. The multicoloured steps are a fun feature!

1963 Schönherr dolls house with new plastic railing and awning, plus pond and crazy paving

1960s Schönherr dolls house pastel multicoloured stairs cut out balcony railings

The dolls house above shares some features with those we have just seen, but has a wooden balcony railing in the distinctive open circle with cross bars which was used by Schönherr in the 1920s. We don't have ads or catalogues to date this, but the predominance of wood in the window and balcony frames may suggest it is slightly earlier than 1964. An interior view, below, shows the familiar late 1950s-1960s floorpapers and shutters.

1960s Schönherr pastel house inside downstairs and shutters

1970s

By 1972, the firm of Schönherr had gone out of existence. It had been nationalized, as other dolls house manufacturers had before it, under the name VERO. Typical features of some 1960s Schönherr models can be seen in early 1970s VERO dolls houses, such as this two-storey house and the small cottage below it:

1970 Schönherr dolls house in the spielzeugmuseum Nürnberg

1970s Moderne Zeiten Schönherr cottage

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