Friday 19 December 2008

Chad Valley Jig-saw Puzzle from the 1920s

This is a 120 piece wooden jig-saw puzzle entitled A Cotswold Alley. It comes from the heyday of the jig-saw's mass popularity as a family pastime in the 1920s and 30s. The classic cottage scene it depicts follows sentimental rural imagery that has dug itself into English culture over the last two hundred years as industrialisation and urbanisation took hold. This 'chocolate box' image of the countryside strenghtened in potency through the twentieth century and was deployed commercially at all levels.

Chad Valley traces its origins to a printing company set up by Anthony Johnson in Birmingham in the early nineteenth century. By the end of the century, the firm had re-located to the Chad Valley Works at Harbourne and was diversifying into the production of cardboard games. Between the two world wars, the company established its reputation as a major toy producer. The Chad Valley trade name was acquired by Woolworths in 1988.

Thursday 11 December 2008

Tri-ang Dolls' House, 1937

This classic dolls house from the 1930s, known as 'The Stockbroker House', has been added to the project.

The 1930s brought suburbanisation to new heights. More and more people wanted to be in touch with the countryside, have their own garden, and commute to the town. Unchecked ribbon development was often the result.

Suburban house designs drew on clich├ęd rural styles of the past with pebbledash, mock Tudor features and latticed windows much in evidence. Of course, these houses also now had electric lighting, indoor bathrooms and a garage. The dolls house shows how deeply embedded these aspirations were in our culture, right down to the level of children’s play.

George and Joseph Lines, trading as Lines Bros, were important toy makers of the nineteenth century. They were making dolls' houses by the early 1900s. Joseph's three sons set up their own similar business after the First World War with the trade name Triangtois. On the death of Joseph Lines in 1931, the two firms united under the name of Tri-ang Toys. They made a range of dolls houses in the 1930s, including some in the modernist style, but the most popular were the mock-Tudor suburban models.

Monday 8 December 2008

Trees and Cows wallpaper, 1920s

This was one of a number of wallpaper designs produced by Edward Bawden (see earlier post) in the 1920s. At first laboriously hand-printed by Bawden himself using the lino-cut method, they were adopted by the Curwen Press in 1926 and became more widely available as lithograph printed papers. A sheet of the Trees and Cows design has been acquired for this project. A tranquil, if rather mesmerising, rural motif like this brought a touch of the countryside into urban and suburban homes of the pre-War era.

The Curwen Press was founded in 1863 in Plaistow, East London and was initially primarily concerned with printing music. The founder’s grandson, Harold Curwen, was joined by Oliver Simon in 1920 and together they breathed new life into commercial art and design of the period. Simon had connections at the Royal College of Art (his uncle was Principal) which enabled him to sign up artists such as Paul Nash, Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden for a range of projects from book illustration to lettering to advertising posters. Bawden frequently worked for the Press and contributed in the later 1930s a number of illustrations for the You Can be Sure of Shell poster campaign, like the one of Blandford Forum below.