The toy firm Kibri was founded in 1895 by the manufacturer Wilhelm Kindler and businessman Adolf von Briel in Böblingen, in the state of Baden-Württemberg, in the south-west of Germany. Its specialties at that time were advertised as kitchens, shops, fountains, swimming pools, and model railways. Almost 10 years later, they were competing strongly with the long-established company Märklin, only 10 km away. The product range in 1904 was very large, including toy kitchens and shops, furnishings for the kitchens and shops or for doll rooms, as well as garden arbors and verandahs which could be attached to dolls houses or roomboxes, but not dolls' houses or roomboxes themselves. By 1912, Kibri had 42 employees, and a large proportion of their products were exported.
After the First World War, a focus on model railways became apparent, and garages and service stations were added. Until the 1920s, the toys were made of sheet metal and iron. Wooden toys, such as board games, were sold, but not manufactured by the company itself until the 20s. Toy kitchens and their accessories were only offered until 1927. The range of shops remained, however, as well as bathrooms in all sizes and a few dolls’ rooms.
Cover of Kibri Jubilee publication, 1995
As you know from my articles in earlier issues of this magazine, my interest is in German dolls' houses, furnishings and dolls from the 1950s to the 1970s. Thus, although I can report on the early history of Kibri, I do not have any Kibri items from before WWII myself.
Before, during and after the Second World War, there was little metal for the toy industry and Kibri used substitute materials, such as building a railway station entirely of wood and cardboard. They produced hardly any war toys. Their company building was fortunately spared, and after 1945 wooden and tin toys were again produced, with model railway accessories the main focus.
As early as 1948 we again find mention, in the Jubilee publication, of furnishings for doll rooms / room boxes and toy shops in the Kibri catalog.
In 1949, the company were already advertising water toys made of tin, such as this swimming pool with pergola, and tin bathrooms.
1949 ad for Kindler & Briel dolls' swimming pool, made of wood and tin, colourfully painted.
Kibri 1950s tin bathroom from the Roland Schmidt collection.
In 1953, in a report about Kibri for an export edition of the journal Das Spielzeug, a bathroom, toy shops and kitchen cupboards are mentioned, but no dolls' house, no room box – perhaps because they weren’t novelties?
The small number of Kibri catalogues available, and the small number of branded dolls' houses and room boxes shown in advertisements and trade journals, does not make it easy for collectors to identify them. We have four named photographs of Kibri dolls' roomboxes (including one kitchen), and one dolls' house with a Kibri label. We have two known examples of one of the roomboxes, and one of another. From these 5 definitely confirmed dolls' roomboxes and houses, and the known examples of them, we can suggest features such as the wallpapers, window frames, door handles, paint colour, arrangements of curtains, which enable us to tentatively identify other dolls' rooms and dolls' houses as Kibri.
In 1954, a doll's kitchen and a large wooden roombox were announced in the trade magazine Das Spielzeug. According to this ad, the roomboxes were also on sale in smaller sizes.
1954 Kibri announcement in Das Spielzeug: kitchen. I do know of an example of this kitchen, but do not yet have any photos.
1954 Kibri announcement in Das Spielzeug: dolls roombox Nr 159/3. Length 137 cm, depth 43 cm, height 27.5 cm. Modern wooden construction, papered and nicely painted. On one side is a pergola, and on the other a modern tiled bathroom with running water and a built-in tub. The dolls' roombox is also supplied in smaller sizes. Kindler & Briel, Böblingen/Württemberg.
Two examples of the 137 cm long, three-room roombox are known, one of which was displayed in the "Dreams Come True" exhibition in Esslingen in 2012, and another which belongs to a collector from Bruchsal.
This certainly was "a dream which came true" for everyone in the fifties: spacious rooms, and a patio with pergola. Note the light blue painted doors and windows.
On the right you can see holes in the wall - perhaps the water tank for the tub was once attached here. In the photo of 1954, there was only the tub and hot water boiler in the bathroom - nothing more.
This roombox has the abstract wallpapers typical of the 1950s …
The other example of the long Kibri roombox, in the Bruchsal collection, has colourful wallpapers which would surely delight children.
Very attractive, the overgrown pergola. Note the cream and brown tiled floor paper.
The bathroom at the opposite end was originally only furnished with a tub.
One of Kibri's colourful wallpapers, this one showing gnomes at work.
And in the middle room, a flowery wallpaper:
Details of the doors in these two examples of the long roombox:
Another collector owns a one-room roombox with the same elf wallpaper – perhaps this is one of the smaller roomboxes mentioned in the ad? Or one from a slightly later date?
Probable Kibri roombox © Sylvia Wentzlau http://www.sylvias-puppenhaus.de/
It also shows features which we see on other, later Kibri roomboxes and dolls' houses – the opening plastic windows (and plastic curtain rail), the herringbone parquet wallpaper, and the pale blue paint.
Back of roombox showing typical Kibri window and pale blue paint © Sylvia Wentzlau http://www.sylvias-puppenhaus.de/
Another website, http://www.spielzeug-museum.at/, shows a Kibri bathroom that probably dates from around 1954, as it has the same hot water boiler shown in the ad for the long room box.
Above is an unusual dolls house of the 50s/60s in Katharina's collection, with wallpapers which hint to Kibri as the producer. The flowery wallpaper downstairs is the same as in one room of the Bruchsal 1954 long house. The bathroom tiled floor paper is identical to the floor paper in the pergola of the Bruchsal house, while the bathroom wallpaper is the same design in another colourway. Note also the herringbone parquet flooring downstairs, and the door handle similar to the one in the Bruchsal house.
Dolls' houses and roomboxes were also absent from the report on the 1955 Nuremberg Toy Fair. This Kibri logo appears in the toy fair entries for 1955 and 1959.
In 1956, the production of plastic started, and in 1957, the catalogue included bathrooms, roomboxes, kitchens, shops, stalls and shop counters, dolls’ furniture and dolls’ swings.
This kitchen perhaps dates from around this time, as the sliding cupboard doors are made of plastic. Like the kitchen in the 1954 ad, the cupboards and sink are built-in. The curtains are pinned back as shown in that ad, too, and the handles on the sliding cupboard doors resemble the door handle in the Bruchsal house.
We know a lot of different ways to arrange the rooms in a dolls' house, but the structure shown below is very unusual: all rooms on one floor but not arranged in a line like the room box we saw above, no, this time the terrace and the kitchen were placed in front of the bedroom and the living room. Every room is easily accessible for the little girl playing with it.
1956: A four room apartment, roofless and open on all sides, was presented at the Nuremberg Toy Fair in 1956. Three rooms were papered, while the bathroom was tiled and equipped with a boiler and toilet.
Above, from the journal Umschau (Survey), Issue 18, 1956. Below, ad from a toy catalogue.
Here we see an example of this four-room house from the collection of Anna Setz: note that this house from 1956 still has the round metal door handles.
In 1959, the entry in the Nuremberg Toy Fair catalogue showed only bathrooms and shops in the product list, no roomboxes or dolls' houses …Another collector, in Borbeck, has a dolls' house with a Kibri label. The Kibri logo is different from that in the 1955 and 1959 toy fair catalogues, and first appears on the Kibri catalogue of 1960 (as we see on the Toy Catalogue Collector website http://www.wiswin.nl).
Above, front of the house, with the Kibri label on the right-hand corner. Below, detail of the label.
Back of the house.
Above: detail of the door and below: detail of the window.
A roombox, probably from Kibri, appears in a toy catalogue from 1960. The main identifying feature here is the door, with its long handle – the same as in the labelled Kibri house. Note the projecting flower window. The low wall surrounding the roof terrace is quite unusual.
A two-storey version of this roombox has a bathroom which displays other Kibri features: the hot-water boiler is again the same as in the bathroom of the long roombox in the 1954 ad, and the low wall dividing the toilet from the rest of the bathroom is similar to that in the tin bathroom shown above.
Ca 1960 dolls house, probably Kibri, from the Gröner und Heller collection.
As noted in my article Flower Windows (Issue 17 p 7), the firm Häfner & Krullmann sold plastic dolls house doors and windows from 1958. It is very probable that Kibri purchased their plastic doors and windows from Häfner & Krullmann. Kibri at that time did not have a tradition in working with plastics; they had started with metal, and there were times they even gave some orders for woodwork to other firms. At that time they were not known for their plastic products either, so it is likely that they bought the components from Häfner and Krullmann, a firm which worked exclusively with plastic.
Häfner and Krullmann plastic dolls house windows and doors were sold by Hobbies in the 1960s under the name 'Hobbiholme' (from the 1964 Hobbies Handbook).
Other roomboxes with these plastic doorframes, door handles and window frames, as well as the colourful wallpapers and pale blue paint typical of Kibri dolls houses, include a smaller one in the Borbeck collection:
Here is a close-up of the door in the dividing wall:
And another in the Jacobsweiler Dolls House Museum, from the collection of Ingeborg Michno:
with a close-up of the door in the dividing wall:
In 1961, a modern dolls house made of wood was offered:
Here it was announced in Das Spielzeug as "Novel types of doll's houses permitting an elevation with additional floors supplemented by various furnishings."
1961 Kibri modern doll's house © Jörg Bohn, http://www.puppenhausmuseum.de
1961 Kibri modern doll's house: bedroom © Jörg Bohn, http://www.puppenhausmuseum.de
Luckily we have firm identification of this innovative house in the report in Das Spielzeug, as there are few typical Kibri features. One familiar item is the hot water boiler in the bathroom:
1961 Kibri modern doll's house. Above: bathroom; below: kitchen. Photos © Jörg Bohn, http://www.puppenhausmuseum.de
For more photos of this house, see http://www.puppenhausmuseum.de/kibri-60er-design.html.
In the early 1970s, Kibri had brightly coloured houses and rooms on offer, easily distinguishable by their bluish plastic doors and the window shapes, which had not changed very much since the late 1950s.
In 1973, a major fire, caused by arson, destroyed the entire premises. Many historical models, patterns, catalogues and documents were lost. However, the buildings and machines were built up again, and in 1995 Kibri celebrated its centenary. 15 years later, however, the company was declared bankrupt, and the trademark rights were sold to Viessmann Modellspielwaren (Viessmann Model Toys).
For more photos of probable Kibri dolls houses and roomboxes, with their colourful wallpapers, please see my blog post Kibri Chronology.
Unless otherwise indicated, all photos on this page are © diePuppenstubensammlerin. We thank Sylvia Wentzlau and Jörg Bohn for allowing us to include photos from their websites.