Dollhouses are some of the most sought after toys and collectibles. They are miniature dioramas of intricate homes that feature everything a real home would have. Did you know that they have a rich history that goes back far before their popularity in the toy industry? Here is a brief history of the dollhouse!


They were not intended to be toys

In the 1500s, dollhouses were miniature representations of eloquent royal courts, manors and palaces. They were known as “baby houses” and were intended to be trophy collections that only the wealthiest of people owned. They were prestigious and expensive – sometimes costing as much as a real-life house! This is because they were lavishly and intricately decorated with valuable materials from metals like silver to ceramics like ivory and porcelain.


Rich women would collect and display these dollhouses to show off their wealth and their knowledge of fashion trends of interior décor. They often came in the form of a “cabinet house” in a fold-open style.


Dollhouses changed with the Industrial Revolution

The transition from eloquent and expensive dollhouses to the household middle class dollhouse first started during the Industrial Revolution and rose after World War II. Toy manufacturers had began to make dollhouses with cheaper and more readily available materials like sheet metal, plywood, fiberboard, plastic, wood and cast iron in Germany, the UK and the U.S.


Later in 1894, one of the first folding dollhouses manufactured with lightweight coloured materials in New York City. It was known as the McLoughlin folding dollhouse. This dollhouse featured four hinged rooms with floors that could be collapsed into a flat box. It was very small – measuring 13 by 13 inches! Its popularity was important for commercial dollhouse designs as it had a compact size – making it both easy for kids to transport as well as being easy to ship across the country!


Fast forward to now

Dollhouses are still very popular and many toy manufacturers have offered their own take on traditional models while others have taken elements of the dollhouse and put them into new, contemporary ideas. For instance, V-tech’s Flipsies series has a unique dollhouse that turns into an ocean cruiser. They also have a bakery set that has dollhouse sensibilities to build new imaginative stories around!


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