Once upon a time, brightly-colored graphics on pressed layers of cardboard in the shape of characters from nursery rhymes, Mother Goose stories, and other childhood tales covered the walls in baby nurseries and children’s bedrooms.
Once the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States joined World War II, Japanese imports disappeared from store shelves and American companies began to take over the toy and other markets once previously held by importers. At the end of the war, Phil Riley of the Dolly Toy Company in Tipp City, Ohio, designed this new kind of wall decoration. They were dubbed “Pin-Ups” and promptly patented.
The Pin-Ups hit stores in 1948, marking the entrance of Dolly Toy Co. into the “Baby Business”, and quickly spawning knock-offs. Dolly Toy would defend their patent in court — and win, thus cornering the paper Pin-Ups market. With such success behind them, Dolly Toy sought to increase their line. By the the 1950s, the company had created other matching décor items for baby’s room. Along with Tidee-Ups (a decorative wall hangers with pegs for clothing), there were lamps and even the company’s first Disney designs. By the early 1960s, crib mobiles would be sold too.
The following photos are of the Dolly Toy Co. items I have listed at Etsy. (You can also search eBay for deals too.)
I personally adore the vintage Western cowboy designs. I soooo wanted to do my son’s room in a vintage cowboy theme, but I didn’t have these then. I mentioned that to my son when he was about six years-old and he put his hand on my arm and said, “You can still do that it you want, Mom.” It just about broke my heart it was so sweet! Of course, now that he’s 11, all I get is an eyeball-roll. *sigh*
If some of these seem vaguely familiar or faintly nostalgic, even if you never had them in your family’s home, you may recall seeing them on reruns of at least one classic TV show.
According to the long-gone Dolly Toy website, Dolly Toy Co. products were featured on one of the most popular shows, I Love Lucy, thus making Pin-Ups part of The World’s Most Famous Nursery. While Dolly Toy Co. was not featured in the 1953 ad, you can spot the Pin-Ups in Desi Jr’s nursery — there’s Jack Jumping Over The Candlestick and what appears to be Mary & her Little Lamb.
A more complete Dolly Toy history (or corporate obituary, as the company ceased in 2008) can be found here.