The history of today’s dollhouse can be traced as far back as 400 years ago to the “baby houses” of Europe. Built in the 16th century, baby houses were cabinet displays crafted in Europe and were made up of many rooms that contained exquisite architectural detailing. Unlike the dollhouses of today, these baby houses were off limits to children, and were designed and built specifically for adults. Cabinet dollhouses were the prized possessions of affluent women living in large European cities. The dollhouses of that time as well as the miniature dollhouse furnishings and miniature dollhouse accessories within it were reserved for the wealthy with a price comparable to a modest real life-size home.
Miniature homes have been around for thousands of years. Some of the oldest known miniature homes furnished were found in ancient Egyptian tombs nearly 5,000 years ago. These completely furnished homes were made of wood and included many of the same furnishings and articles one might find in today’s dollhouse.
With the advent of the industrial revolution, factories began to mass produce dollhouses. Originally, dollhouses were popular in European countries such as Germany and England. Germany specifically had earned a reputation of crafting some of the most prized dollhouses ever made.
The manufacture of the American dollhouse began in the late 19th century. Dollhouse manufacturing grew more popular throughout the early 20th century as more companies began to produce them. Mass production was in full swing after World War II. Mass production allowed for greater output and more affordable dollhouses, but compromised the quality, detail and craftsmanship of traditional European custom dollhouses. During the 1950’s, the typical dollhouse was made of painted sheet metal and plastic furniture. However, the efficiency created as a result of mass production allowed for many young girls in the western culture to afford their very own dollhouse.
Today’s dollhouses are a hobby for both adults and children alike. Many still enjoy the challenge and reward of building a custom dollhouse much like the traditional dollhouses hand-crafted in Europe. Others enjoy building a dollhouse from a dollhouse kit, which includes a fully built house usually made of plywood or MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) and ready to assemble.