Museum employee brought to tears over 'sweet' dollhouse antiques: 'Thank you for the nostalgia'
One woman’s video is bringing up all sorts of emotions on TikTok after highlighting some forgotten relics of the Great Depression.
The TikTok was uploaded by @sawpottery, who explains that she works at her university’s museum and sometimes goes into the archives to “look at all the cool stuff.”
On this particular day, that “cool stuff” included a box of doll furniture that someone donated from the Great Depression era. But instead of the furniture being hand-painted and carved from wood, as you might expect, each piece appeared to be made from a folded cardboard-like material.
According to @sawpottery, there’s a story behind that.
“Apparently butter companies would print dollhouse furniture patterns on their packages so kids could have toys,” the TikToker wrote.
“Didn’t expect to be crying over butter today,” she added in the post caption.
Neither did a lot of other TikTokers.
“Oh now I’m crying about butter packaging too,” one person wrote.
“Oh man picturing the mamas trying to collect all the pieces for their children and making them so carefully,” added another, along with a string of crying emojis.
“the humanity in packaging from the depression era is so sweet,” someone else mused.
A few people actually claimed to have memories of similar toys they came across in their grandparents’ homes.
“Omg I remember my great grandma had a couple of little chairs and a nightstand or desk made out of these!” one person shared. “I had totally forgotten.”
“My great grandma made me the most amazing play store set out of things she saved and now I know why,” someone else said. “Thank you for the nostalgia.”
“My grandma talked about this,” another person wrote. “The magazines and other companies would print paper dolls, so she and her sisters would cut them out and play with them.”
Other TikTokers mentioned similar ways companies create sustainable items for struggling families.
“Like the flour sacks with cute patterns so mothers could use them to make clothes!!” one person said, referencing the brightly colored packaging that doubled as free garment fabric in the 1930s and early ’40s.
According to The Atlantic, dollhouses actually have an interesting history that dates back to 17th-century Europe — long before “butter box furniture” was ever invented. And believe it or not, they weren’t made for kids.
“Before they were toys, ‘cabinet houses’ and other miniature homes were used to show off wealth and teach domestic roles,” writer Nicole Cooley explained in the report.
As a result, these “cabinet houses” were intended for display purposes only and were typically filled with expensive items to impress guests.
By the 18th century, they were called “baby houses” in England, which were basically miniature replicas of the owner’s home. It actually wasn’t until the 19th century that dollhouses became something for children to play with — and even then, it took time for the toys to become mass-produced and affordable for the average family.
Today, dollhouses are enjoyed by both kids and adults, and they range dramatically in price, style, and detail. And while butter companies no longer print furniture patterns on their boxes, at least one TikToker said they could imagine it happening given the current state of the economy.
“I’m waiting for them to start doing stuff like that again with the way things are going,” they wrote.
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