The Doll’s House at the Smithsonian

The Doll’s House at the Smithsonian

Since 1967, the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of American History has housed a 29 room dollhouse. The family that calls the dollhouse home is (what else?) the Doll Family. This miniature family consists of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Doll, their 10 children, two visiting grandparents, five servants, and 20 pets.

Smithsonian Dollhouse 2
Grandfather Doll in the Guest Bedroom

The house consists of 23 rooms, each painstaking decorated by a girl named Faith Bradford, who donated it to the Smithsonian in 1951. The scale of the house is 1 inch = 1 foot, and the time period is turn-of-the-20th-century. Some of the household furnishings were purchased from area toy & specialty stores; others were made by Ms. Bradford.

Smithsonian Dollhouse 3
Dollhouse Library – Right Side

Everyday items were transformed into miniaturized versions of other items. Buttons became stacked dinner plates in the pantry, and matchsticks became shelved books in the library. Bradford made ceiling fixtures for the nursery and nurse’s room from parts of electric plugs.

Smithsonian Dollhouse 4
Dollhouse Library – Left Side

Faith Bradford even made a scrapbook about the dollhouse, with fabric swatches and detailed descriptions about what was in each room. The dollhouse was exhibited publicly at a charity toy fair in 1932 and at a Woodward & Lothrop department store in 1933.

Smithsonian Dollhouse 5
Dollhouse Drawing Room with Woodthrop the Parlor Maid

When I was a little girl, I loved looking at this dollhouse. I still do. When I took my Girl Scout troop to Washington DC and we stopped in at the museum, they all loved it too. I think that the appeal of a dollhouse is timeless – there is just something fascinating about looking into a fantasy world and seeing every aspect of daily life portrayed in miniature. No matter what age the spectator, the dollhouse is sure to be appreciated for its size and scope.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is located at 14th St and Constitution Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20001.  Telephone 202-633-1000. Admission to the museum is free.  Hours are 10:00 am to 5:30 pm every day of the year except for Christmas.

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