Curator’s Corner: Toys

Brianna Shambrook writes about some of the collections at the Sooke Region Museum

Clockwise: Dollhouse made by Ed Easton (2014.FIC.225)

This month we’re discussing toys in our artifact collection. We have a wide variety of toys mostly dating from the 1920s to 1980s. Among our collection are plenty of dolls, doll clothes, trucks and figurines but very few games. While the museum does not do artifact appraisals, you can use eBay as a tool to see how much money the toys you kept from your childhood are worth.

In our collection is a very special dollhouse that was commissioned by the museum and built by Ed Easton (2014.FIC.225). It was commissioned to hold a collection of over 75 pieces of dollhouse furnishings that were donated in 1983 by Betty Gibson. The dollhouse, on display inside Moss Cottage, is modelled after one of Victoria’s oldest estates called Wentworth Villa located at 1156 Fort Street. The villa was built in 1862 for Captain Henry Ella and had been used as an antique store since 1940. It was one of the first buildings to be added to the city’s heritage register and is representative of the Gothic Revival movement on the northwest coast. In 2012, an article in the Times Colonist stated that the house was up for conversion into condos but that a heritage conservation plan was pending.

The dollhouse furnishings belonged to the donor’s grandfather and were probably made in England. The collection includes a wide variety of items such as dishes, utensils, chairs, couches, cabinets, tables, beds, dolls, and even decorative pieces like sculptures and clocks. The items have incredible detail. For example a clock is made from gold-painted metal and has a copper cherub on the top playing a pipe (1983.056.006). The base of the clock is ornately decorated with curlicues (decorative twists and curls).

The museum has a large collection of various dolls, but the Kewpie doll is the most common. Kewpie dolls were an idea that started with illustrations, by Rose O’Neil, in the Ladies Home Journal. The editor of the journal wanted Rose to create illustrations of a cupid-like character to accompany a written piece. The Kewpie illustration became an instant hit and she soon began drawing for other publications. In 1912 Kewpie Kutouts, or paper dolls, were created. That same year, Rose was approached to develop a line of figurines and dolls. At first, the dolls were made from a high-fired German bisque and later, in the 1920s and 1930s, they were made from celluloid. It wasn’t until the mid-1900s that the dolls were created using plastic. We have one bisque Kewpie doll and several celluloid ones in our collection. Characteristics of a Kewpie doll are typically large wide eyes, pink-ish skin, large heads, short arms and legs that stand together. Many of the celluloid dolls have their arms attached by a string. There are many different themed Kewpie dolls including soldiers and doctors. We have a 15” cabaret-themed Kewpie doll in our collection (1979.114.001). She wears beaded jewelry, a gold and silver top hat and has multi-coloured feathers attached. Her lips, cheeks and finger nails are bright red and her hair is gold. We also have teeny Kewpie dolls that are as small as 3 cm high and have no clothing (1978.077.029a-b).

We also have a few monkey toys including an Amazing Magic Cymbal Monkey from the 1950s (2009.006.002). The monkey is made of metal but has clay feet and light orange fur. He is wearing a red hat, red plaid shirt, and beige felted shorts. These monkey toys came with a set of cymbals, but ours is missing one. A red cord attaches to his back and has a clamp mechanism at the end. When the clamp is squeezed the monkey sits upright, his head moves and his arms pull apart. When the clamp is let go, his cymbals would clash.

During the museum’s 2014 exhibit renovations, the toy display was temporarily dismantled. There are plans to make a new exhibit that will have samples of toys from multiple generations. If you have any toys that you’d like to donate, that pre-date 2000, then please bring them to the museum!

 

Brianna

Shambrook

Collections and

Exhibits

Manager

Sooke Region Museum

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Journey Middle School students try out the trades

Program is designed to expose students to career options

Local Monarchist says Saanich Peninsula would be a ‘great place’ for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Bruce Hallsor also expects the couple’s professional opportunities to lie outside Greater Victoria

Court rejects mistrial for accused Victoria drug dealer who fired his lawyer

Horst Schirmer filed a mistrial application on basis of receiving incompetent representation

Saanich seeks young residents to serve on 2020 advisory committees

Youth members must be between 16 and 24 years old

Central Saanich councillor says council may re-examine speed limits in Brentwood Bay

Coun. Carl Jensen says he wouldn’t be surprised if council were to move on the issue

Officials reaching out to those in contact with Canada’s first coronavirus patient

The illness has sickened at least 1,975 people and killed 56 in China

Kobe Bryant killed in California helicopter crash: reports

NBA star was reportedly in his private helicopter at the time of the crash

Investigation launched after six dead puppies dumped in Richmond hotel parking lot

RAPS reminds people they can always give up puppies they can’t take care of

Risk of coronavirus low in B.C. as first case emerges in Toronto: officials

There have been no confirmed cases of the virus in B.C.

‘Presumptive case’ of coronavirus in Canada confirmed by Ontario doctors

Man in his 50s felt ill on his return to Canada from Wuhan, China

VIDEO: Drone footage shows extent of damage in Highway 4 rockslide

Tofino, Ucluelet still cut off from rest of the island, as crews work to repair roadway

People knowingly take fentanyl so make policy changes to reduce harm: B.C. study

Dr. Jane Buxton, an epidemiologist at the centre, says drug users need more resources,

‘My heart is going to bleed’: Bodies brought back to Canada following Iran plane crash

Remains of Sahar Haghjoo, 37, and her eight-year-old daughter, Elsa Jadidi, were identified last weekend

Most Read