Archive for June, 2010

A child’s attachment to his or her special toy can be so endearing!  I find that it’s often the story behind how the child received the toy, rather than the toy itself, that makes it so special to the child.   This little all bisque German doll has such a story to tell.

This tiny doll is obviously not an expensive toy of high-quality, but she made one little girl’s stay in an Oklahoma hospital more pleasant.  A note on the doll’s box reads, “I got this doll as a gift from my mother and dad when I was in the hospital in Woodward (Oklahoma) with a broken arm when I was 8 yrs. old.  Sept. 1926.”

What a comfort this doll must’ve been to her owner during this tough time!  We know that she had some adventures after her hospital stay as another note on the box says that “Viva Crabtree made her clothes.”

The owner’s fond memories of this doll continued into adulthood.  A note on the top of the box, written in a mature hand, reads, “Do not destroy.  A keepsake I treasured.”

Did you have a special toy that helped you through a difficult time?

Photos of Doll courtesy of Emmie’s Antique Doll Castle.

As you can see from many of my posts, I enjoy antique images featuring children with their toys. This photo, circa 1905, is a great one! Not only does this little gal have two great dolls and a toy horse – she also has a wonderful Schoenhut Toy Piano! What a day of outdoor play she must have had with these toys! I wonder if she and one of the dolls played a duet! Or, perhaps the dog sitting near the piano was the virtuoso!

The Schoenhut company is still in operation today and I have added a history of the company’s early years according to their website,

Albert Schoenhut (1848-1912) was born in Wurtenberg, Germany to a toy-making family. His father and grandfather made wooden dolls, rocking horses, and wagons. At a young age, Albert began making toy pianos in his home. The hammers on the early toy pianos struck a sounding bar made of glass instead of the strings used on real pianos. He later exchanged the glass bars for those made of metal, making the instruments more durable. Albert’s toy pianos, more than just playthings, stayed in tune and were accompanied by sheet music to encourage children to play.

In 1866, John Dahl, a buyer for Wanamaker’s department store, heard of young Albert’s talent and brought the 17-year old to Philadelphia where he worked as a repairman on glass sounding pieces in German toy pianos that had been damaged in shipping.

Albert struck out on his own in 1872, founding the Schoenhut® Piano Company. As his toy piano business grew, Albert added other instruments including a ukulele-banjo, xylophone, and glockenspiel. He also expanded his line to include dolls, circus figures, and toys.

By the time of Albert’s death in 1912, Schoenhut Piano Company® was the largest toy company in America and the first in the United States to export toys to Germany.

I came across a Schoenhut Toy Piano for sale – the same model as shown in the antique photo – on a site specializing in antique dolls. I have included a photo of it below! Visit for more details!

A precious image, dating from about 1908, was taken by a Berlin photographer. This beautiful blue-eyed baby is holding a stuffed rabbit. Although I’m not sure, it’s possible that the rabbit is an early felt Steiff stuffed toy.

The Steiff Company is still operating today and is the world’s oldest toy manufacturer. Steiff was founded in 1880 in Germany by Margarete Steiff, whose motto always was “only the best is good enough for children.” The company’s success is quite remarkable considering the fact that Margarete was confined to a wheelchair and only had use of one hand due to a bout with polio as a child. She taught herself to be an expert seamstress and after spending years making felt clothing, she began making elephant pincushions for friends. Children were attracted to these charming pincushions as they were more cuddly than tin toys and more durable than bisque dolls. Margarete soon realized the demand for plush toys and the company’s vision was born!

Lions, dogs, donkeys, and dolls were among the companies first plush toys Steiff produced. The company began producing rabbit toys early on and even produced a “Peter Rabbit” toy in 1905, based on the character from Beatrix Potter’s popular books. The bears that the company would become famous for weren’t produced until 1892. Of course, the company’s official “Teddy Bears,” based on the tale of Theodore Roosevelt’s refusal to shoot a baby cub while on a 1902 hunting trip, didn’t come until a decade later.

Collectors can estimate the age of a Steiff toy by the type of identifying button found in its ear. The buttons were often removed by adults before giving the toy to a child, making identifying and dating a toy more difficult for today’s enthusiasts. If the rabbit in the photo is by Steiff, its button has been removed.

In the picture gallery at the bottom, I have included a photo of a similiar Steiff rabbit from the same time period as the photo.

If you’re interested in learning more about Steiff’s history or the history of the various Steiff ear buttons used over the years, visit the links below!

Steiff Company History

History of Steiff Buttons

Also, visit the Steiff website to see the wonderful toys the company continues to make today!

What a unusual doll! This little all bisque German character doll measures only 2 1/2″ high! The most charming aspect of this little boy is that his mouth, arm, and thumb are molded so he can suck his thumb!

The doll is only marked with a faint number 6 on his back. He is of good quality and might be by Gebruder Heubach, a dollmaker known for his miniature all bisque dolls with expressive faces.

According to Dolls in the Looking Glass: The Joy E. Orozco Collection:

In 1843, two brothers, Georg Christoph and Philipp Jakob Heubach, purchased an existing porcelain factory in Lichte, Germany, for the purpose of making household pottery, figurines, and novelties. The brothers were part of a family of ten children, several of whom were also active in the porcelain industry. The factory continued in the family until 1938 when the firm filed for bankruptcy. The company began making doll heads in 1910 and made mostly character heads and small all-bisque dolls for dollhouses. They produced thousands of head models for many German and American dollmakers. They employed especially skillful modelers, many of whom were trained at the school for sculptors in Lichte founded by Gebrüder Heubach in 1862. The heads often had molded hair and intaglio eyes, a technique used to create an illusion of depth and realism in painted eyes. Although Gebrüder Heubach dolls were economically produced for the less affluent trade, the modeling of the doll heads was artistically exceptional. From the childlike hair styles to dimples on chins, Heubach heads were natural portraits of expressive children. Heubach produced an unusually large number of boy doll heads, many of which were distinctively male.

Even if this little fellow isn’t by Heubach, he sure is adorable!

If you’re interested in learning more about all bisque dolls, the book below is a great reference!

I think this may be the most adorable child’s tea set I’ve ever come across! A pair of sweet kittens graces each piece. Some pieces have two grey kitties, others have a grey kitty and an orange kitty!

The set is not marked but is most-likely German, dating from about 1905. If you’re a collector of cat and kitten items, you know that many items featuring lovable felines were produced during the Victorian era. A change in the social status of cats and the charming cat-themed artwork of artists like Louis Wain helped to make cats “en vogue!”

Below is an excerpt from the book Parlor Catsby Cynthia Hart, John Grossman, and Josephine Banks that speaks of this status shift.

“Looking at the pictures of fluffy Victorian cats with their big eyes and soft faces, lounging lazily on the hearth with colorful bows tied round their necks, one would be hard put to imagine them as anything but adored creatures. Yet, not many generations before, cats had been relegated to the barn to catch mice and to keep the foodstuffs secure from vermin. Rarely did they see the inside of a house – except perhaps the kitchen, cellar or attic. Assigning cats to the task of pest control began in ancient Egypt, where their primary purpose was to keep granaries free from mice that would devour their contents if left unguarded. But even then, though revered for their role in preventing starvation and even elevated to godly form, cats were also beloved pets. The Victorian interest in archaeology uncovered this find. In the 1890s an article in GODEY’S LADY’S BOOK told its readers that the cat was an acceptable and desirable household pet, no longer the stereotypical friend to lonely old ladies…

Victorian life was filled not only with actual cats but also with images of cats as decoration. Cat items became the rage. the new department stores were filled with them, and the paraphernalia of advertising reflected the demand. The most effective promotion tools portrayed cats even when the products they advertised had nothing at all to do with them. No item that could hold a picture was missed in the mania for images…”

I am awfully glad that Victorians came to adore cats because the cat-related products made during this era are just so irresistible!