Vintage Pin-Ups For The Nursery

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 d├ęcor 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.

Vintage Model Train Collection Photographs

Speaking of model trains, here’s a lovely set of five vintage photographs which show off a vintage model railroad collection. Each photograph measures 3 by 4 inches; dated August 1967 on the back.

Images from Lynnstudios.

The State Of Affairs In Model Railroad Trains

Back in November, I heard WDAY making the promo for that night’s broadcast — an alarming headline about model trains. I don’t recall word for word, but it was so alarming that I indeed remained glued to the station and watched the news especially for that report. While the headline sounded far more drastic (implying that something was preventing the manufacture of model trains or something), the segment (video here) was about the decline in model railroading membership and a decreased interest in model trains themselves. While it wasn’t particularly surprising, it was saddening… Even though we do not yet own a model railroad set.

Through the serendipity of the collecting gods (what some might call “luck”), we found ourselves days later in Wisconsin, visiting family, and there we discovered that the Lionel Railroad Club Of Milwaukee was having an open house — we transported ourselves there asap!

There were so many things to look at… Not just the trains, the engines and cars, but all the figures, cars, animals, and details in the layout. So much to take in, that even though there is a raised look-out spot for engineers and others to get a great “aerial” view, you really have to walk around — several times — to try to see everything.

And then you’ll need to make at least one more trip looking at the vintage railroad engines and cars displayed on the walls and on the side of the layout!

There’s an impressive 28-foot long, 250 pound, model of New York’s Hell Gate Bridge which spans above your head. You can see more photos and details on how it was made here.

The bubbling oil rig lights that look like vintage bubble light Christmas tree ornaments were a complete surprise.

The kids fell in love with the aquarium. I myself was completely smitten with the Lionel Madison Hardware Shop model — there was a miniature model train set in the miniature store window! Yes, the mini train worked too! Here’s a closer look:

As a family we greatly enjoyed the huge model train set-up. Being there just confirmed all the reasons why we want a model train set. It’s not just the rush of the choo-choos, the excitement of their woo-woos, but the chance to build the whole miniature world! I’m a girl who loves miniatures. And hubby’s a man with some model building experience — small toys and larger theatrical sets too. For both of us it’s a chance to get really creative!

The price of a model train set can seem steep. New, vintage, or antique, it’s not cheap. But if you consider the years you can take to build and grow your set, it’s achievable to do it piece by piece. And affordable when you realize this is a true hobby. Not to minimize collecting in any way (How could I?!), but model trains and railroads are about building, expanding, playing; these are not shelf-sitters.

The husband and I have wanted a train set for a long time; since visiting the railroad club open house we’ve grown not only more wistful but determined to make it a goal for ourselves. (Yes, you can expect more model railroad articles!) I’m sure the kids will climb on board once they see the train in action.