A Christmas Doll House: 1913

edwina eberly doll house


Christmas Gift for Child of 10 Years is Elaborately Furnished, Has Elevators, Electric Lights and Telephones—only 6 by 5 ½ Feet and Took years to Build.

Boston, Dec. 30. A doll house the size of an upright piano and believed to be the most remarkable ever constructed, was the Christmas gift of 10-yaer-old Edwina Eberly of No. 162 Ashmont street, Dorchester.

On the day of the little girls’ birth Leroy Eberly, her father, began the construction of this remarkable toy. It took years of work to complete it and its furnishings.

Her father’s intentions were that it should be held secret until his daughter was old enough to appreciate such a gift. He died soon after the house was completed and the “toy” was given to the little girl’s uncle to hold until her 10th Christmas.

It required four men to carry the house in miniature to its place among the other gifts that awaiting Miss Edwina Christmas morning.

It stands 5 feet 4 inches in height and is 6 feet in width. It contains 11 rooms, divided into living and sleeping rooms, and each is architecturally perfect.

Each room is furnished completely and includes beds of enamel for dollie’s friends and a real brass bed for dollie herself. There are tables aplenty, with an extension table in the dining room. The kitchen contains a handsome iron range with set tubs and running water.

The bathroom, on the second floor, is equipped with open plumbing. The dining room, parlor and sitting room, on the first floor, are beautifully carpeted with rugs and throughout the house snowy white draperies are seen on all the windows.

An elevator occupies the centre part of the hall, which is operated by a string pulley. By arrangement the elevator will carry a good sized doll to any floor wanted.

There is a billiard room on the third floor, and cues occupy a conspicuous place in a rack set into the wall. The entire building is lighted by electric lights operated by a small storage battery located in the foundation. Telephones are in every room and when the telephone in the big house rings the small ‘phones in the doll’s house buzz.

Pawtucket [RI] Times 30 December 1910: p. 13

From the Newport Historical Society.

From the Newport Historical Society.

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One can only imagine the young girl’s delight in this elaborate labour of love from her deceased father. Mrs Daffodil, who is always charmed by miniature households as they are so much more easily managed than full-sized ones, would give much to see this wonderful dolls house “in the flesh,” rather than in a cloudy photo-gravure, should the house still exist. She has searched the collections of several Rhode Island historical societies in vain, only discovering the chairs just above and below. It is possible that these chairs are the last surviving pieces of the furniture made for Miss Edwina’s house or they may have been made by another family member. A label on the bottom of each of the chairs reads:  “Made for Mrs. John O. Peckham (Matilda Allen) by her great-grandfather Thos. Goddard. Gift (?) E. Eberly.”

A miniature armchair from the Eberly dollshouse. From The Newport Historical Society.

A miniature armchair from the Eberly dollshouse. From The Newport Historical Society.

According to the U.S. census, in 1910, 9-year old Edwina, her mother, Blanche, and her uncle, Edwin Peckham, an upholsterer (did he make any of the miniature upholstered furniture?), were living at the Ashmont street address. Mrs Daffodil is unsure of the family connections between John and Edwin. Mrs Eberly’s mother was Matilda Allan Peckham and her grandmother was Matilda Allan, so perhaps these chairs are much older than Miss Edwina’s gift, although they could have been incorporated into the dining room or parlour as family heirlooms.  In any case, the young Miss Edwina must have been enchanted to find this world in miniature by the tree on Christmas morning.  She never married and did not have a child to whom she could have passed down the marvelous house, so its ultimate fate is unknown.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.



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