Sunday, April 13, 2014

Home, Sweet Home

Lettie With Her Reed House
Be it ever so humble!  Home, Sweet Home, the song, was written by John Howard Payne in 1823, an adaptation from the opera Maid of Milan.  The tune itself, was composed by Englishman, Sir Henry Bishop.  And, for the last 150 years, it has been sung in elementary classrooms, and quoted by all.  While there's no place like home, there is nothing better for a dolly, besides a beautiful wardrobe, than having her very own doll house to play with.

Katy With Her Folding House
Reed House Furnished With Decalco Lithos
While French artisans were busy in their work shops creating out of this world dolls and toys (Etrennes), in the 1800's, the Americans were not to be outdone in their own versions with paper and wood.  John McLoughlin, Jr. and his brother Edmund would, a century later, become a household name in the eyes of antique toy collectors throughout the world.  McLoughlin Bros., Inc. was a New York based publishing house that pioneered color printing in the early 1800's.  John, Jr. learned wood engraving and printing in his father's business, and after acquiring his father's business, began McLoughlin Bros., Inc. with his brother Edmund.  They created chapbooks, large folio books, puzzles, games and paper dolls using advanced, high colored printing technologies for children's pastimes. 

Their most successful business gave artists like Thomas Nast, William Momberger, Palmer Cox and Ida Waugh a legacy of beloved artistry in illustration that is highly collectible today.  In 1905, John Jr. passed away creating a huge loss of artistic and commercial leadership, and the company was sold to Milton Bradley in 1920.  While the company continued to make books, they were no longer in the business making board games.

Other printing companies were also thriving in the 1900's producing beautiful paper doll houses like Lettie Lane's Doll House for the Ladies' Home Journal readers, while companies like Decalco Litho (1926), another New York based company, were creating pages of printed doll house furniture (among other toys as well).  I could find very little information on Decalco Litho, but I do know they also printed paper dolls in the 1920's.

The Open Roof Plan
My Marble Columns
Among other antique "papers", Jean Nordquist has been collecting McLoughlin Bros. antiques, and scouring the auction houses for beautiful wall papers and paper furniture sheets for her reproduction doll houses for years.  Having hung up my wood working tools, I was keen to "newly discover" the charming dolly doll houses she and her husband Ken lovingly reproduce as kits.  You may remember the Bliss House kit I made for Polly earlier this year.  Well, why stop at one?!  So I purchased two more kits  in order to give myself a stretch from sewing.

I began working on the 3" Folding Doll House reproduction.  Of course the original was not this tiny.  From what I could tell from a photo Jean sent to me, it was roughly 15" x 15".  This doll house would fold into a sort of album to be stored in its presentation box.  When taken out to play with, you'd fold down the floors of the rooms creating a four room doll house complete with a breezeway through curtains.  Being who I am, I begged Jean to make up sheets of furniture for this tiny house.  She'd not considered it priority, because who would go to the trouble of cutting out such tiny pieces?  ME!  And, so sets of the tiny furniture pages are now available for the 3" Folding Doll House. 

A Side View
While I was awaiting the sheets to be made, I began the Reed House.  The Reed House is another 10" doll house like the Bliss, that you paint and assemble with glue, then cover with graphic papers.  It is different in design from the Bliss as it has exterior columns at the front door and slightly wider dimensions.  We used McLoughlin Bros. furniture in the Bliss House, and Decalco Lithos for the 3" and Reed homes.  While putting these little doll houses together, I was transported to a long ago era of exquisitely designed toys.   It is simply impossible not to fall in love with the artwork of the Golden Age.  I was also able to give them a little personalization.  One by happenstance, one by artistic creativity. 

Home, Sweet Home
With the folding house I added muslin edging and since it is so tiny, and it becomes thicker with glue and double-sided paper graphics, mine would not fold up to show the original presentation cover...but the bedroom instead.  Ah, well...  Its my doll house (Katy's actually), and it will be displayed open.

With the Reed House, I painted the columns (wood dowels), to resemble marble.  We must have elegance!  And, when you make up the furniture, what you choose to put in your dolly house personalizes it as well.  The wooden homes have three sides to sit furniture up against, while the folding one only provides two highly decorative walls.  Sitting paper furniture against an open space bothers me some, but I'm sure Katy with her Dolly Dingle and Kitty Cucumber paper dolls won't mind!

The folding house comes with a cover graphics for a small box, and I purchased a set of 3.5" x 3.5" jewelry boxes to use one to store the "album" in.

Folding Doll House in Box
How the Story Unfolds
Now I must admit that by the time I was cutting out and assembling the itty bitty folding house furniture, I was realizing why I love doing "tiny", and also why I don't do it so much anymore.  Flea furniture!  It can pop right out of your fingers when fiddling with it!  I took a photo of the furniture using the "miniaturist's guide" to show scale.  A penny.  You place a penny next to item and everyone knows exactly how small it is.

During the two weeks I slaved over these beautiful dolly doll houses, I did some research, a little Internet hunting and pecking, to see what other goodies those two McLoughlin brothers had produced.  Incredible!  How I would love to find a color catalogue of all that they made.  You'd think Theriault would have done this!  Since this journal writing is about doll houses, I'll stick with that, but the books and toys are simply amazing.  I would urge you to do a little "image search" and type in McLoughlin Bros. on Ebay.  Its a world of antiquity like no other.

Jean has produced other reproduction doll houses, one being the Keyhole Bliss House.  Just this morning I found an antique one on Ebay for the low price of $1900 (wink, wink).  I just about fell over!  It was incredible in design, and made me resolve to make up Jean's kit at some point.  She told me she is currently working on a new house for her line, with Ken, and I can't wait to see what they come up with.

Follow your heart, follow your dreams, and keep playing dolls!

Love, Miss E. Mouse

Antique House Plans

Furnished With Decalco Lithos

A Penny For Scale - Still Rubbing My Eyes!

Another McLoughlin Bros. Wonder!

With a Fold Down Front

Antique Orig., Keyhole Bliss House

One Last Look

Katy With Her Dolly Dingle and Kitty Cucumber Paper Dolls


  1. How my girls would love to play in your dolly room! They are drooling on the computer and feeling very put out that they do not have such toys. (I should remind them of the toys they do have!). These are amazing and once the medical expenses stop, I too would be interested in the tiny furniture. Just wonderful. N

  2. This would be fun to do with different types of homes and buildings - dance studio, bakery, tea shop, hat shop, etc. with a corresponding story.

  3. Kristin, there is a McLoughlin reproduction paper village you can purchase on Ebay, that is similar. I believe they call it the New Village. Its small, and its wonderful!