Historians note that the first dollhouses developed as material exhibits of very wealthy adults in the late 1500s. These "baby houses" were actually cabinets divided into compartments, fitted with architectural details, and furnished with handcrafted, miniature household items. The cabinets were the exclusive playthings of adults and, in showcasing finely made furnishings of exotic woods and materials, the baby houses served as a kind of status symbol for wealthy European ladies. The appeal and fascination of such small houses and the miniatures in them, though, enthralled children no less than adults. In Europe, especially Germany, toymakers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries produced a new variation-not the cabinets with their small furnishings, but tiny models of homes for children to furnish with chairs and tables, beds and pallets, tapestries and floor coverings. Mass-production methods of the nineteenth century allowed manufacturers to offer dollhouses cheaply, and more children of the growing middle class played with ones in their nurseries. Dollhouses continued to be a favorite plaything of American girls throughout the twentieth century. This toy form helped girls learn about interior design and household management, and it invited girls to use their imaginations to create narratives about the occupants of their dollhouses. But adults rediscovered the appeal of miniatures too. By the middle of the twentieth century, legions of grownups made a hobby of fabricating their own miniature rooms and houses. The appeal for adults was less about playing with the small houses and furnishings and more about the process of fabricating them. Today, miniatures hobbyists number in the tens thousands, and they support many annual shows and sales events, national organizations, regional groups, and local chapters. It is a thriving industry worth millions of dollars and thousands of pleasurable hours.
|Material||wood | metal | plastic | stone | fabric|
|Credit Line||Gift in honor of Ruth Rosenfeld|
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