Walther & Stevenson was a well-known toy store in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, from the 1930s to the 1960s. It started life as a saddlery and harness makers' in 1910, when two men named Oswald Charles Walther and George Stevenson bought an existing business at 383 George St, Sydney. It seems that they ventured into toys some time in the late 1920s, as in 1930, a Sydney newspaper had answered a reader's query about where to buy rubber for model aeroplanes by saying that it was "obtainable from Walther and Stevenson. Ltd., 395 George Street, Sydney, which firm sells all parts for model 'planes."
The store was mentioned in 1932 and '33 in part-fictional, part advertising stories by one W. R. Cameron, about families up from the country to do their Christmas shopping, which were published in the newspaper The Land. The toy department, and the toy catalogue, get particular mention in both years:
1932, from 'Getting a Break on Santa':
'I didn't like to tell poor Ethel why we couldn't take her," said Mrs. Farmer, as she and her husband alighted from a tram in George Street, close to Walther and Stevenson's, "but if she and George see us buying the things here and at Saunders' they'd have a pretty good idea who they were for, and it would spoil the Christmas surprise."
"They won't care," said Jim, "and it was quite time, as I told them, that I had to buy some saddlery and harness at Walther and Stevenson's for old Lamb. He was most particular about my getting it here." .....
[Later] "As they took their seats in the tram once more, Mrs. Farmer remarked,
"I don't think I ever saw such a nice place as Walther and Stevenson's to buy toys. And just look at the catalogue. It'll make a lovely picture book for Mrs. Oates's little boy with all those lovely pictures of engines, and cannons, and cars, and things."
"Any kid would like these little pieces to build farms and gardens with," said her husband, "and George'll be delighted with lengths of timber to make things out of at home. And all those other toys ought to suit your sister Maggie's kids down to the ground."
1933, from 'The Big Christmas Round-Up':
"We've been to several places," replied Mrs. Wheatley, "but the most interesting of all was Walther and Stevenson's. That husband of yours had to go there for some saddlery, and he got some remarkably good articles at what Dan said were downright bargain prices. Harry was so pleased with what he saw that he bought about twice as much as he intended."And Dan and I got into the toy department," she continued, "and there were things that you just simply couldn't resist. Our children are a bit big for toys, but we have plenty of nephews and nieces, and we just HAD to buy some lovely mechanical toys and other things. And they've got the things that bigger children can use to build their own playthings, such as yards and model farmyards. Why, even their catalogue, 'The Best of Toys for Girls and Boys,' is a picture book in itself."
Front (left) and back (right) covers of early 1930s Walther & Stevenson toy catalogues, 'The best of Toys for Girls & Boys'. This is my very battered 1933 copy.
The Walther & Stevenson toy catalogues are indeed treasure troves full of illustrations of toys and models; they also fetch a great deal of money these days! The first catalogue I have seen - 1931, of which I have a facsimile copy - has over 135 pages. The dolls houses shown in it are imported from England (and what looks like a German dolls house appears on the back cover), but Australian-made dolls house furniture and model farm buildings were also already offered. Australian-made dolls houses in Australian styles had been added by 1933, and during World War II, when imported models were no longer available, Walther & Stevenson sold what appear to be copies of some English dolls houses.
The Australian-made dolls houses and furniture were available from the early 1930s until the 1953/54 catalogue. They don't appear in the 1954/55 catalogue, which has only plastic dolls house furniture (mainly Kleeware) - and in the next catalogue I've seen, for 1956/57, wooden dolls house furniture which is identifiably German has been introduced. This suggests to me that Walther & Stevenson's Australian supplier stopped making the dolls houses and furniture around 1953, after producing them for over 20 years. While we can identify the makers of their imported dolls houses and furniture, sadly we don't know who the Australian maker was. Until we discover more information, we can only identify it as 'Walther & Stevenson', much like using the name of the London department store Silber & Fleming to identify the type of dolls houses sold by them.
1950s Walther & Stevenson toy catalogue cover (scanned as one, so the back cover appears on the left, and the front cover on the right). Note the Triang dolls house.
"Notable figure in the Sydney hobbies and toy world, Ken Anderson, stands outside the famous business of Walther & Stevenson, which closed its doors on June 4th due to the sale of the building." Australasian Sportsgoods & Toy Retailer, July 1969.
Walther & Stevenson closed on June 4th, 1969, due to the sale of the building. The Australian toy trade journal reported that there were plans to re-open in a smaller way in the nearby suburb of Rozelle. Whether this happened, I don't know. The latest catalogue I have seen dates from 1965. It is much smaller than the earlier catalogues - it does show two dolls houses from a well-known Sydney toymaker, but "furniture sets" are listed among many other toys on a "Xmas Idea Page" which are "not shown in this book".
Cover of Walther & Stevenson toy catalogue, 1965.
This article will probably be of most interest to Australian collectors, but Walther & Stevenson pieces do occasionally turn up on the other side of the world. In 1991, Christie's sold a dolls house described as "of Sydney suburban style, with enclosed verandah", with furniture which included "a basin with shop label reading Walther & Stevenson Pty. Ltd. 395 George St. Sydney". (Could the dolls house have been sold by Walther & Stevenson too? Without a photo, we can only speculate ...) I spotted an assortment of Walther & Stevenson furniture on UK ebay a couple of years ago, which I was able to add to my collection. Perhaps sometimes Walther & Stevenson dolls house furniture was sent as a gift to relatives overseas, or was taken back by people who had emigrated to Australia and then decided to return. I would love to hear from anyone, whether in Australia or elsewhere, who has any Walther & Stevenson dolls houses, dolls house furnishings, or model buildings!
A range of Australian-made model buildings and equipment, for use with Britain's model farm figures, were already available by the time the 1931 Walther & Stevenson catalogue was published. Two farm houses, cow sheds, stables, a stock yard, wind mill and a grindstone were shown in the 1931 catalogue, another 12 items had been added by 1933, and several more by 1938.
My Walther & Stevenson model farm: left front, a sheep dip, with behind it a windmill, piggery and stock yard. Behind the farm house are a three stall stable and (hidden) a single cow shed, with a grindstone and a separator standing in front of the stable.
Stock yard, stables and windmill, as shown in the 1933 catalogue.
We know from wartime permit labels found on the base of some pieces that production of this range continued for some of the war. However, they don't appear in the first post-war catalogue I have seen, for 1949, or thereafter, so perhaps they were not produced after the war, or indeed all the way through it.
The base of my windmill, with the remains of a label reading, in part, D. I. P. [Division of Import Procurement] Permit, indicating that the piece was made after 1942, with materials not needed for the war effort. At the top left is pencilled the number '638' and price 2/11.
Australian type Farm Houses, from the 1933 catalogue. Left, Double Fronted Farm House, 12 in. long, 8 in. deep and 6½ in. high. Price 7/6. Right, single front farm house: in 1931 & '33, 9½ in. x 6 in. x 6 in. high; by 1938, 7½ in x 7½ in. x 6 in high. Price 5/9.
Double Fronted Farm House in the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Although these farm houses were small, they were nicely finished, and certainly intended to be played with on the inside, as well as forming part of the model farm scene. They had wallpaper on the walls and ceiling, and lace curtains at all the windows. The earlier houses had an opening back, as stated in the 1931 and 1933 catalogues; later, the roof lifted off to give access to the interior. (The lift-off roof may have been introduced in 1934, when a fold-up farm set was offered, with a farm house attached to one side, and a paddock on the other. The roof of the house was removed before folding the two halves of the farm together to pack it away.)
My Single Front Farm House, front view
My Single Front Farm House, back view
My Single Front Farm House, interior looking straight down. (These furnishings are not from Walther & Stevenson.)
My Single Front Farm House, one end - furnished as a kitchen, with a very new-fangled gas stove! A fuel stove would have been much more likely, and I do have one in this scale somewhere.
My Single Front Farm House, the other end, furnished as a bedroom
My Single Front Farm House, the ceiling
One of the other buildings supplied with the range was an outhouse or dunny - an outside toilet, which can be seen here behind the Powerhouse Museum's farmhouse:
The back view shows the opening for removing the pan:
As well as farm buildings for housing or managing the stock, other models improved the amenity of the farm for the people who lived there:
A tennis court - 10½ in. long x 6 in. Price (not including figures) 4/6.
A laundry - with washing tubs and copper, 5¾ in. long, 3½ in. high. Price (of laundry only) 1/9.
Other model buildings would have allowed children to construct a small town, where the inhabitants of the farm could shop, drink, and worship. I love the names of their proprietors!
The Country Hotel (Mr. Ilava Nother, Proprietor). 12 in. long and 5½ in. high, with 3 doors - back door opens. Price (hotel only) 8/6.
The Country Store (Proprietor Will Weywell). With shelf inside windows. 10 in. long, 5 in. high. Back opens. Price (store only) 7/6.
(Note the packing crates from W&S, Sydney!)
Country Church. 10½ in. long, 9¾ high, with porch, belfry, and notice board. Back opens. Price (church only) 8/6.
It seems likely that one reason for the early appearance, popularity and extensive range of these Australian-style farm buildings was that many of Walther & Stevenson's original clientele lived on the land. As well as purchasing Walther & Stevenson's saddlery and harness, boots and other equipment for working their land, the farmers (or, as we would say in Australia, station owners) could buy toy farms for their children to play at the same activities.
As we will see below, the Australian-made dolls house furniture sold by Walther and Stevenson was made of plywood, as were the more solid parts of these model farm buildings. The ply is of a different thickness - not surprising, as the furniture and farm building represent different scales. Even so, I don't think they came from the same maker, as they have a quite different feel to them. I haven't seen enough of Walther & Stevenson's Australian-made dolls houses to suggest whether they could have been from the same maker or not.
The first dolls houses listed in a Walther & Stevenson catalogue, in 1931, are from Lines' Bros Triang. The manufacturer is not named, but one is pictured, and Isobel Hockey very helpfully identified it when I showed it on my blog some years ago.
Triang DH/2, 1931 and 1933 Walther & Stevenson catalogues.
Described as a "Big Two Storey House or Mansion, red roof, 2 chimneys, 5 large windows with curtains in front, door with knocker, six rooms, staircase with banister, kitchen with stove and dresser, fireplaces in 3 rooms, 4 doors inside, all rooms papered and imit. lino on floors. 24½ x 11 x 24 in. high. £5/10/-."
Also available in 1931 and 1933, but not pictured, were several cottages, identified by members Jane Hurley and Julie Hardy as Triang's Mayflower series when I posted the descriptions on the website earlier this year. 4 were available in 1931, and 3 in 1933 (the No 51 was not listed in 1933).
No. 50. - Single Room Cottage, Shingle roof with chimney, 2 windows, door, 11½ x 10 x 12 in. high on base representing a lawn. 16/6.
No. 51. - Two Room Cottage shingle roof, with attic room, 5 windows, door, water butt and shrubs on lawn. 16 x 12 x 17½ in. 29/6.
No. 52. Two Room Cottage - Shingle roof, bay windows, 5 windows, door, chimney, water butt and shrubs on lawn. 15½ x 14½ x 16½ in. high. 50/-.
No. 53. Four Room Cottage shingle roof, with front gable, 7 windows, 2 outside doors, one inside door, water butt and shrubs on lawn. 21 x 12½ x 17. 70/-.
The back cover of the early 1930s Walther & Stevenson catalogue depicts a dolls house which looks very like a Gottschalk design. Perhaps dolls houses were imported from Germany, as well as from England?
The 1933 catalogue also shows two Australian-made dolls houses, a cottage (or bungalow) and a two-storey house, and describes two more. They don't appear in the next catalogue I have seen (in the National Library of Australia, and probably from 1934, although as it's missing its cover we can't be sure) - but as that states that "We also have English and Aust-made dolls houses in other styles than [shown] above", it's possible that they were available for some years during the 1930s.
No. G91 - Doll's Cottage - 17½ in x 15 in x 17 in high, divided into two rooms, rough cast finish with verandah and bay window. 26/6
No. G92 - Doll's Cottage - Is same style as G91 but is 15 in x 10½ in x 15 in high, and similar finish. 17/6
No. G93 - Doll's Cottage - Is 14 in x 10 in x 13 in high, with verandah full width, and no bay window. 12/9
No. G94 Two-Storey Dolls' House. is 26 in high, 15 in wide and 14 in deep. It has two rooms papered throughout, verandah and balcony. Opens at front. 27/6.
For those who wanted to make their own dolls houses, the 1933 catalogue mentioned that plywood, fretwood, stripwood, dolls house wall paper, roof paper, floor papers, and brick and tile papers were available.
From 1934 (I think) until 1939, a series of 'Wendy' dolls houses was shown in the catalogue. (No 2 'Wendy' house appeared in a 1934 newspaper ad, too.) "Little girls," the catalogue assures us, "fall in love with "Wendy" dolls' houses at first sight. They are exceptionally attractive with their red roofs, rough cast walls and fancy door and window frames. All are hinged in front to give access to rooms."
No 4 "Wendy" dolls house, shown on the back cover of the late 1930s-late 1940s Walther & Stevenson catalogues.
No 1 "Wendy" House - 16 x 11 x 11½ in. high. One room with fireplace, ceiling light and lace curtains at window. 24/6.
No 2 "Wendy" House - 20 x 13 x 12 in. high. One room, with ceiling light, fireplace & curtains. There's a shrub in front. 29/6.
No 3 "Wendy" Two-Storey House. 18 x 14 x 17 in high. Two rooms, with staircase and landing at top. Ceiling lights, fireplaces, cretonne curtains, and shrubs in front. 32/6
No 4 "Wendy" Two-Storey House. 22 x 18 x 18¼ in high. This has 3 rooms with staircase and landing at top, ceiling lights, fireplaces and shrubs in front. 42/-.
When I first got the dolls house below, I thought that it was homemade, but since seeing the Wendy Houses in the Walther & Stevenson catalogues, I wonder if this could be one of the "Aust-made dolls' houses in other styles than above" which the store also had. It certainly has a red roof and rough-cast walls, with fancy door and window frames, and the porch entry and the shrubs placed on the porch and at each end of the front of the house are identical to those on the two-storey Wendy houses.
My rough-cast house, possibly a Walther & Stevenson "Wendy" two-storey house. Above, showing the shrubs & the window frames on front and side; below, detail of the front door.
Inside, it has three rooms, stairs with a landing, and (non-functional) ceiling lights. Mine does not have fireplaces, although it does have a chimney.
My rough-cast, possibly a Walther & Stevenson "Wendy" two-storey house, open.
The circa 1934 dolls house does not state which English dolls houses were available. The 1939 catalogue mentions two, the No 52 and No 53 Ultra Modern Dolls Houses, which must be the well-known Triang models:
No 52. Ultra Modern Dolls House - Two large rooms fitted with fireplaces and electric wall lights, metal framed windows front and side, built in garage, beautifully finished in cream and green. The opening is in front. £5/19/6.
No. 53. Ultra Modern Dolls House - Is very similar to No. 52, but larger. It has four large rooms, door leading on to verandah, kitchen fitted with dummy gas stove, sink, and dresser. Fitted for electric lights. £6/17/6.
While I don't know of any catalogues from during the war years, the only dolls house we know of which was definitely bought from Walther & Stevenson was purchased in 1942. It was donated to the Powerhouse Museum in 2008 by its first owner, Janet Vanderfield, who received it for Christmas when she was 7 years old. I was able to see it on a recent visit to the museum. (Apologies for the quality of the photos - sunlight streaming from above and patterned carpet reflecting off the display case did not make photography easy!)
Front of 1942 Walther & Stevenson dolls house, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney.
The museum's Object Statement suggests that this is a copy of a Triang dolls house. While Walther & Stevenson were definitely selling Triang dolls houses before the war, to me this looks more like an Amersham model, with its three separate gables without a joining ridgeline, the overlapping strips of wood representing roof tiles, the V-shaped porch roof over the front door, and perhaps even the diamond lattice windows. Amersham produced a very similar model in 1938, and while we have no evidence that they were imported into Australia, Amersham houses were certainly sold after the war, both by Walther & Stevenson, as we shall see, and by other Sydney department stores like David Jones.
Detail of side with garage, 1942 Walther & Stevenson dolls house, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Detail of the other side, showing the thin chimney and the light switches. 1942 Walther & Stevenson dolls house, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Detail of the front doorway and opening windows with lace curtains. 1942 Walther & Stevenson dolls house, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
More detail of the shrubs (made from painted pinecones) and climbers. 1942 Walther & Stevenson dolls house, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
A glimpse inside - red flooring and an arched door are just visible. 1942 Walther & Stevenson dolls house, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
After the war, Walther & Stevenson was able to import dolls houses again. The earliest post-war catalogue I have seen so far is from 1949-50, when three Triang dolls houses, two Amersham dolls houses and one Australian house were listed.
When I write "Available" below the listings, I mean that the model was included in the catalogue. The catalogues, at least until 1953/54, encourage customers to
"Come in and see the largest range of dolls' houses in Australia. A size and price house to suit "your" request.
From 2 to 30 odd pounds each, and from 15 to 40 odd inch frontages.
Here are just a few of these Wonderful Houses."
The only Australian dolls house shown was quite different in style and materials from those offered in previous years. It is very small, and seems to have Romside metal windows and front door. It does somewhat resemble Walther & Stevenson's model farm houses, which we saw above, and which were no longer available after the war.
No. 64 - Dolls' House - Australian model house. Beautifully made and coloured, opening doors and windows. Side also opens. Green and red. Size 8 in. high x 14 in. x 15 in. A fine house. Price 46/3 each. Available 1949/50 - 1953-54.
At least three Triang dolls houses were available each year from 1949/50 - 1953/54:
No. 60 Dolls' House - A well made house opening metal frame windows, 2 rooms, tiled sun porch, steps, red tile roof, 13¾ in. long, 10¾ in. wide, 16¼ in. high. Price 90/- each. Available 1949/50 - 1953/54
No. 59 Dolls House - Very similar to No. 60, but slightly smaller, very well finished and packed. Four rooms. Price 85/- each. Available 1949/50.
No. 61 Dolls' house - A large house with built-in garage, 2 large rooms, metal framed windows, tiled sun porch and steps, red tiled roof. 19 in. long, 11 in. wide and 16 in. high. Price £6/10/- each. Available 1949/50 - 1953/54.
From 1950/51 to 1953/54, what we know as the Triang No 50 was shown in the catalogue. In its first appearance, it was given the number 63; in 1953/54, it was M50. It was described as "A metal house with fibre roof. Perfectly coloured. Appears to have 4 rooms, but only has 2 entire floors. Whole front opens. Size 15 in. x 18 in. Price 85/- (in 1950/51); £5/19/6 (in 1953/54).
Two Amersham dolls houses are shown in the 1949/50 catalogue, and one in the catalogues for 1950/51 and 1953/54.
No 62 Dolls' House - Two-room Tudor style house, windows and doors open, also front of house. Size 12 x 8½ x 16 in. Price 75/3 (1949/50) or £5/14/- (1950/51); shown but no details given in 1953/54.
No 63 Dolls' House - Tudor style villa with wing, two large rooms and dressing room over built-in garage. Opening casement windows and doors with rose decorations. Size 26 x 12½ x 17 in. Price £8/12/3. Only shown in 1949/50.
I do not see any dolls houses in the catalogue for 1954/5. In 1956-57, a Mettoy tin litho dolls houses is listed:
Perhaps customers were no longer prepared to pay freight on ready-built wooden dolls houses?
The next Walther & Stevenson catalogue - and the last - that I know of dates from a decade later, in 1965. It shows two dolls houses, which were made by the Sydney toy manufacturers and importers Bestoys. (Their dolls houses will be the subject of an article in a future issue.) These dolls houses are quite large, and are made of hardboard and chipboard, but were sold as flatpacks, minimising freight costs.
Above, "Grace" Dolls House. Attractive house, 3 rooms, open at rear. 24 in. wide, 14 in. high, 13 in. deep, with front verandah. Lacquered wood. £5.8.6.
Below, "Laura" Dolls House. Open at rear, this is a BIG HOUSE 24 in. wide, 21 in. high and 13 in. deep. 4 rooms in lacquered wood 2 storey house. £6.14.3.
The Walther & Stevenson toy catalogue published in December 1931 lists three suites of furniture. It is described as Dolls Furniture, and would need a large, approximately 10th scale, dolls house to accommodate it.
This bedroom suite is shown in both the 1931 and 1933 catalogues. In 1931, only complete suites were listed; by 1933, pieces could be bought individually.
Described as: "No. 10. Bedroom Suite. - Is a neat well-made set that will not break easily, being made of plywood on the lock-tight principle. It is nicely lacquered and comprises wardrobe 8" high with dress hangers, 9 in. bed, pedestal and dressing table with swing mirror. 13/6.
No. 12 Bedroom Suite is as above but without bed.
(Here I learn that what I call a bedside table, and also know as a nightstand (particularly when it was made to conceal a chamber pot), is here called a pedestal!)
While the complete set was sold painted, the individual pieces were sold uncoloured. The sizes and prices are:
No 300 Bed - 9 in., plain - 2/6
No 301 Wardrobe - 7 ½ in. - 4/9
No 302 Dressing Table - 5 ½ in. - 3/9
No 303 Pedestal - 2 ½ in. - 1/4
All these item numbers are still listed in the 1939 catalogue, all but one for the same price. However, the design of the wardrobe and dressing table has changed - see below.
The dining room suite is described, but not illustrated in the 1931 catalogue. This illustration is from the 1933 catalogue, when it could be purchased as a suite, already painted, or as individual pieces, unpainted. The same pieces were still available in the 1939 catalogue, for the same prices.
Here, the description of 'made on the lock-tight principle' seems to have led to the form 'Loktyte', which looks like some kind of trade name.
"No 14 Loktyte Dining Room Suite - Nicely lacquered, consists of 5 in. sideboard, 5 ½ in. table, 3 chairs and rocker in plywood. 7/6"
The individual prices were:
No 304 - Table - 5 ½ in. 9d
No 305 - Dining Chair - 8d
No 306 - Sideboard - 5 ½ in. - 2/11
No 307 - Rocker - 9d
No 308 - Armchair - 9d
This kitchen suite is described, but not illustrated, in the 1931 catalogue. This illustration is from the 1933 catalogue, when it could be purchased as a suite or as individual pieces (it is not mentioned whether the suite or separate pieces are painted or not).
"No 16 "Loktyte" Kitchen Suite. Consists of 5 ½ in. dresser, 5 in. table, and two chairs. 5/6 the suite.
No 309 - Dresser - 2/11
No 310 - Chair - 8d
No 311 Table - 5 in., 10d
These three items are still listed in the 1939 catalogue, for the same prices, but as they are not illustrated, we can't be sure that they had the same design.
The 1933 catalogue also shows individual pieces of doll's house furniture, in a smaller scale than the suites shown above. They are described as "made to scale and suitable for doll's house rooms of about 10 inches square. With the exception of the lounge suite all are plain wood so that you can lacquer them to suit the colour scheme of the house."
Presumably there had been growing demand for furniture to fit the dolls houses which Walther & Stevenson also sold, and for pieces sold separately, with less outlay at one time, or, as the catalogue puts it, "Think how you can increase the pleasure and interest in a Doll's House by bringing home every week or so one or two more pieces of furniture."
Dining Room Furniture Uncoloured, in the 1933 catalogue. The same pieces were still available in the 1939 catalogue, for the same prices. An example can be seen in the Powerhouse Museum's Walther & Stevenson dolls house, indicating that it was also available between 1942-47.
No 160 - Sideboard - 3 ½ in. - 2/3
No 161 - Table - 2 5/8 in. - 9d
No 162 - Rocker - 9d
No 163 - Armchair - 9d
No 164 - Chair - 8d
Walther & Stevenson 1930s dining chairs and armchair in the collection of Wendy Benson. Above, side view; below, back view.
Walther & Stevenson 1930s dining chairs and armchair in the collection of Wendy Benson. View of base, showing the remains of the Walther & Stevenson labels. The item number, 164, can still be seen on the chair on the left.
Bedroom Furniture Uncoloured, in the 1933 catalogue
No 150 - Wardrobe - 3 5/8 in. wide - 2/11
No 151 - Dressing Table - 3 5/8 in. - 3/3
No 152 - Pedestal - 1/4
No 153 - Bed - 6 in. - 2/-
No 154 - Chair - 8d
Walther & Stevenson 1930s bedroom suite in the collection of Wendy Benson. The cheval mirror is not shown in the 1933 catalogue. It does appear in the 1939 catalogue, and was presumably introduced between 1933 and 1939.
Walther & Stevenson 1930s wardrobe in the collection of Wendy Benson. Above left, front view; above right, side view. Below left, back; below right, base.
Walther & Stevenson 1930s wardrobe in the collection of Wendy Benson, shown open.
Walther & Stevenson 1930s dressing table in the collection of Wendy Benson. Above left, front; above right, side. Below left, back with remains of label; below right, underneath.
Walther & Stevenson 1930s dressing table in the collection of Wendy Benson, shown open.
Walther & Stevenson 1930s bedside table, or pedestal, in the collection of Wendy Benson. Above left, front; above right, side. Below left, back with remains of label; below right, open.
Walther & Stevenson 1930s bed in the collection of Wendy Benson. As can be seen, this is not identical to the one shown in the 1933 catalogue as No 153 - that has the sides of the base protruding through the ends of the bed. The 1939 catalogue does not show bed No 153; the larger scale bed still has protruding side pieces in 1939. Unfortunately, the label on this bed is torn and no number is visible.
Walther & Stevenson 1930s bed in the collection of Wendy Benson. Above, side view; below, base with remains of label.
The bedroom furnishings shown in the 1939 catalogue include some already available in 1931 and 1933, as well as some which have revised designs, and others which have been introduced since 1933.
Bedroom furniture from the 1939 catalogue. Of the items pictured, No 300, the large bed, and No 303, the large pedestal, appear identical to those shown in 1931. The large wardrobe No 301, and the large dressing table No 302 (an example of which is in the Powerhouse Museum), have new designs. Item numbers 150-154 refer to the same pieces of smaller scale bedroom furniture that was shown in the 1933 catalogue, and have the same prices. Whether the design is the same, we have no way of knowing.
The following items were introduced after 1933. All but No 158, the Loughboy (a lowboy or small wardrobe), are in the list of 'New Lines in Loktyte Furniture' in the undated catalogue; the loughboy must have been introduced in the later 1930s.
No 158 - Loughboy - 3½ in. high, 2/- each
No 168 - Lamp Standard - 5 in. No fittings, 1/6 each
No 169 - Lamp Standard, 5½ in. With electrical fittings. 3/3 each.
No 156 - Cheval Mirror (small) - 4½ in. 2/3
No 320 Cheval Mirror (large) - 6¾ in. 2/11
No 317 - Coat Hangers - 1¾ in. long, 2d
No 157 - Twin Bed (small) - 5 x 2¼, 1/6
No 313 - Twin Bed (large) - 8 x 3¾ in. 2/3 each.
Walther & Stevenson 1930s cheval mirror in the collection of Wendy Benson. Above left, front; above right, side. Below left, back showing remains of label; below right, base.
Walther & Stevenson 1930s loughboy in the collection of Wendy Benson. Above left, front; above right, side. Below left, back with remains of label; below right, base; bottom, open.
Kitchen Furniture Uncoloured, in the 1933 catalogue
No 170 - Dresser - 3 ¼ in. wide - 2/3
No 171 - Table - 3 in. - 9d
No. 172 - Kitchen Chair - 8d.
Walther & Stevenson 1930s kitchen dresser in the collection of Wendy Benson. As can be seen, this dresser is not identical to the one shown in the 1933 catalogue, nor does it match the one shown in 1939. This collection of Walther & Stevenson furniture is known to have been purchased during the 1930s, when the dolls house it belongs to was played with by its original owner's daughter. Presumably this is a design that appeared between 1933 - 1939.
Above left, front view; above right, side. Below left, back, with the remains of a label, but unfortunately no item number; below left, open; bottom, the base.
Note that a stove (cooker or range) was not included in the wooden furniture range at this time. Metal stoves in several sizes were listed on the next page of the catalogue; they were probably imported.
An ice chest was shown in the 1933 catalogue as one of a few "New Lines in Loktyte Dolls House Furniture". This was still available in 1939.
No 173 - Ice Chest - 2 ½ in. high. 1/4
The ca 1934 Walther & Stevenson catalogue includes a list of New Lines in Loktyte Furniture (Not illustrated). All but one are included in the next catalogue I know of. No 174, the Kitchen Sink, with tap and draining board, is shown with laundry and cleaning equipment (see below).
The kitchen furniture in the 1939 catalogue has the heading "Kitchen - Etc". Some of the etceteras could go in a kitchen - a fireplace and armchair, for example - but surely not a glory box!
Kitchen - Etc - in the 1939 catalogue
Furniture with the same item numbers (and prices) as in the 1933 catalogue are the Dressers large (309) and small (170), Chairs large (310) and small (172), the large and small tables (311 and 171 respectively), and the arm chairs 163 (small) and 308 (large), which were previously shown as part of the Dining Room Suites. Of these, only the small table and small arm chair are pictured. The design of the table is different from 1933 - possibly other, unpictured pieces, also had slight design changes.
Added after the 1933 catalogue, and listed in the undated catalogue and again in 1939, are the following pieces:
No 189 - Occasional Table, with two books. 1½ in. high. 10d each
No 194 - Mantle, varnished. 4 x 3½ in. 1/6 each
No 195 - Curbs & Tiles for Mantles. 8d
No 204 - Radiator, 2¼ in. high, 1/6 each
No 199 - Imitation Rugs, 4 x 1¾ in. 5d
Added after the undated catalogue, by 1939, are the following pieces:
No 315 - Kitchen Cabinet, large, 6¾ in. wide. 4/6 each
No 175 - Kelvinator. Door opens. 3¾ in. high. 2/- each
No 159 - Glory Box. 3½ in. long. 1/8 each
No 166 - Extension Table, 4 in. long. 1/6
No 314 - Extension Table, 6½ in. long, 1/9 each
Walther & Stevenson 1930s kitchen table and chairs in the collection of Wendy Benson. The table is clearly the later design, shown in the 1939 catalogue, not that pictured in the 1933 catalogue.
Walther & Stevenson 1930s kitchen table, as shown in the 1939 catalogue, in the collection of Wendy Benson. Above, side on; below left, the base with remains of a label; below right, end on.
Walther & Stevenson 1930s glory box in the collection of Wendy Benson. Above, back view. Below left, end on; below right, base with a complete label, which has the item number 159 and the price 1/8, as shown in the 1939 catalogue, as well as another number, 653, the significance of which is unknown. Bottom photo, the glory box open.
The 1939 catalogue offered an alternative way of furnishing the dolls house kitchen - with a kitchen unit. This may have been introduced before 1939, but it is not known how long it was available for - it does not appear in post-war catalogues.
No 208 - Kitchen Unit, as shown in the 1939 catalogue. 10 in. x 4½ in. With 2 doors, imitation sink and electric stove, as illustrated. For the modern kitchen. 4/9 each.
Doll's House Furniture for the hall, etc, in the 1933 catalogue. The same pieces were still available in the 1939 catalogue, for the same prices.
No 190 Hall Stand - 4 ¾ in. high with 2 umbrellas + stick, 1/9
No 182 Palm Stand - Without pot, 8d. Pot with flower, 3d
No 193 Refectory Table - 3 in. long, 9d
No 134, No 135, No 136 - Framed Pictures - 7d each.
Anyone who has the book Dolls' Houses in Australia 1870-1950 can see all three of these framed pictures in the house named 'Georgia', shown on pages 61-63. The drooping style of the frames was thought to indicate that they dated from when the house was constructed and first played with, in 1914, but, along with the wallpaper, flooring and most of the furniture, they were clearly added in the 1930s.
Walther & Stevenson 1930s hall stand with walking stick and umbrellas, in the collection of Wendy Benson. This hall stand is provided with four umbrellas, not just two - the dolls must have lived in a very rainy climate.
Above left, front view; above right, side. Below left; back with remains of the label showing the item number 190. Below right, a clearer view of the stick and umbrella.
Lounge Room Furniture, Coloured, in the 1933 catalogue.
No 183 - Piano - 3 5/8 in. wide, 2/6
No 184 - Piano Stool, 9d
No 180 - Lounge Chair, 11d
No 181 - Settee, 1/-
No 185 - Wireless, 1/6
The only item of this set which I have seen is the radio. The design is not identical, but the label on the back is complete, and shows the same item number as in this catalogue, No 185.
Walther & Stevenson 1930s wireless, in the collection of Wendy Benson. Above left, front view, showing the delicate fretwork. Above right, side view; below left, the back, with the entire label showing the item number 185; below right, from underneath, with a sharp nail that would not meet today's safety standards!
A combined book case and desk was soon added to the range of lounge furniture (in the ca 1934 catalogue). A very similar item was available after the war - they can easily be distinguished as the post-war bookcase/desk does not have the ornamental top which this one has.
No 186 - Book Case and Desk. 5 in. high. 3/3
Walther & Stevenson 1930s bookcase and desk, in the collection of Wendy Benson. Above, front and side views, closed; below, front and side view, closed, and back with label.
Another style of lounge suite was also offered in this ca 1934 catalogue - it is covered in leatherette, and looks a bit more comfortable to me than the No 180 and 181 models! Both versions were still available in 1939.
No 187 - Lounge - Covered leatherette. 4½ in. 2/-.
No 188 - Lounge Chair 1/7.
1930s Walther & Stevenson covered leatherette lounge and lounge chairs, in the collection of Wendy Benson. Above, front and side views; below, back view; bottom, base with remains of shop labels.
A wireless and an upright piano were available from 1933. The circa 1934 catalogue adds a "player roll cabinet", which seems to be fitted with rolls - but what were they to be played on? A serving trolley also adds to the comfort of the dolls house living and dining rooms.
No 165 - Wheel Tray. 2¼ in. 1/3
No 196 - Player Roll Cabinet - 2½ in. 1/9
A Walther & Stevenson "wheel tray" or traymobile, in the collection of Wendy Benson. Above, side and end views; below, side angle view and base with remains of a label.
A grand piano had also been added by 1939. It is pictured with a dressing table stool, perhaps suggesting that it could double as a piano stool:
No 207 - Modern Miniature "Grand" Piano - (Non-playing). 4 in x 4 in. 3/6.
No 312 - Dressing Table Stool - 2 in. long. 9d each.
Under 'New Lines in Loktyte Dolls House Furniture', the following items were offered in the 1933 catalogue:
No 155 - Cot - 3 in. 1/-
No 178 - Porch Table - 3 3/4 in. 8d
No 179 - Porch Form - 3 3/4 in. 6d
The cot had been updated by 1939, and another, rustic, porch seat had been introduced:
No 155 - Cot - 3 in. 1/3
No 176 - Rustic Seat - 4 in. 1/3.
Other items were introduced during the 1930s which catered for the dolls house inhabitants' hygienic needs. Bathroom fittings are listed in the undated catalogue; the first illustrations I have seen are in the 1939 catalogue:
No 197 - Wood Bath Mat. 3d.
No 198 - Wooden Bath, with tap, 4 3/8 in. long, 1/3 each.
No 200 - Bathroom Basin, with tap. 1½ in. long. 1/2 each.
No 201 - Bathroom Pedestal. 1 3/8 in. high. 1/-
No 202 - Bath Heater, 2 in. high, with shower attachment, 4¼ in. high. 1/3 each.
The wooden bath mat is (strangely) shown with the rustic porch seat in the 1939 catalogue; see above. The Powerhouse Museum's Walther & Stevenson dolls house has a wooden bath mat; the bath and basin shown in the same photo may well be Walther & Stevenson pieces too. (The toilet in that photo, however, is a plastic Marquis brand piece, and the potty chair is also plastic, probably Kleeware.)
A kitchen sink with taps had been available since the mid 1930s (see above). Laundry fittings and a vacuum cleaner were also shown in the 1939 catalogue. They were not included in post-war catalogues, and were probably only available for a short period in the late 1930s.
No 203 - Vacuum Cleaner, 3 in. high. 1/6.
No 174 - Kitchen Sink, with tap and draining board. 3 in. long. 1/2.
No 318 - Washing Tubs, 3 in. long, 2 ins high. 1/2 each.
No 177 - Washing Machine, with mangle attached. 3 in. 2/- each.
The first post-war images, in an ad published in a Sydney newspaper in 1947, show many new pieces of furniture, in a chunkier, more solid style. The ad is laid out just like the pages in the catalogues I have seen, from 1949 to 1953/54. The furnishings are no longer available in sets, but are sold, and shown, as individual pieces. The catalogue describes them like this:
"Realistic - Modern Dolls' House Furniture
Made in size to fit dolls' house rooms 10 x 10 inches
This is beautifully made in sanded plywood and plain, solid wood. It can be either painted by yourself or left in the plain wood. Each way is nice and this furniture really makes any doll's house. Each item can be purchased separately so that any house can be made up to exactly your requirements."
For the bedroom, a bed very like the pre-war one was available, as well as one on very modern lines:
No 21 - Twin Beds. Two beds 5¼ in. x 2 5/8 in. Nicely made of sanded wood. Very nice for the "second" bedroom. Price 2/4 (1949) - 3/6 (1953/4) per pair.
I have two of these beds, acquired separately. The bed on the left, painted pink, is perhaps slightly earlier, as it has a decorative cut-out in the headboard, similar to the pre-war beds. Written in pencil on the base of the pink bed is the number 42, and the price 1/2.
No 14 - Bed. Size 5 3/8 in. long, 3¼ in. wide. The ends are 2¼ in. and 1¾ in. high. This bed looks really lovely in any dolls house setting. Price 1/11 (1949) - 2/8 (1953/4) each.
Loughboy No 20, Wardrobe No 19, Dressing Table No 5, Cheval Mirror No 11 (missing mirror), Bed No 14, and Chair No 3, all in natural wood. (The rug is not from Walther & Stevenson.)
The post-war wardrobes and dressing table were in this very solid style, too - the legs of the pre-war pieces have gone.
No 5 - Dressing Table. With opening door. Very modern in design. Left, from the 1947 ad in the Sydney Morning Herald; right, 1949 - 1953/4 catalogues. The 1947 model was 4 inches high; the later model was 3¾ in high, 1 3/8 in. deep and 3 in long. Price 2/10 (1947) - 3/7 (1953/4).
Walther & Stevenson No 5 Dressing Tables, earlier (left) and later (right) post-war models.
No 20 Loughboy, No 21 Twin Bed, No 5 Dressing Table, and a stool which is not in the catalogues. This dressing table doesn't match the 1947 or 1949 design exactly!
No 11 - Cheval Mirror - Swinging mirror, 3½ in. high, base 2¾ in. wide. Beautifully made and an item which is attractive in any bedroom. Price 1/11 (1949) - 2/8 (1953/4) each.
No 19 - Wardrobe. A part of any dolls' house. It is 4 in. high, 1 3/8 in. deep, 4 in. long. Door opens and shuts and girls will get hours of amusement from this item. Price 2/8½ (1949) - 3/4 (1953/4) each.
No 20 - Loughboy. This is part of any bedroom furniture. Size 3 in. high, 1 3/8 in. deep and 3 in. long. Price 2/7 (1949) - 3/3 (1953/4) each.
No 20 Loughboy, open.
No 1 - Round Table on straight legs. Size of table top, 2 5/8 in. diameter and stand 2 in. high. Price 7d (1947) - 1/2 (1953/4) each.
No 2 - Round Table on shaped legs, table top 3 in. It stands 2¼ in. high. Price 1/3 (1947) - 1/7 (1953/4) each.
No 3 - Chair - This suits either of the two tables and will look very well in a kitchen or dining room. Size 2 3/8 in. high. Price 7d (1947) - 11d (1953/4) each.
Walther & Stevenson No 1 Round table on straight leg. In the collection of Wendy Benson.
Walther & Stevenson No 2 Round table with shaped legs, with No 3 chairs (price 7d written in pencil on the back). In the collection of Wendy Benson.
For the kitchen, catalogues from 1949 - 1954/54 show a sink and a stove. The 1947 newspaper ad has a dresser and a refrigerator as well. These were not listed in the catalogues I have seen; perhaps they were still available in-store, but if so, they must have been given new catalogue numbers, as the numbers they had in 1947 (11 and 14) were used for the cheval mirror and modern bed from 1949 on.
No 11 - Refrigerator 3½ in. high. Price 2/3 each (1947).
No 12 - Kitchen Sink. Beautifully made. Model tap and draining board. Two cupboard doors open and close. 3½ in. wide. Price 2/7 (1949) - 3/7 (1953/4) each.
No 13 - Kitchen Stove. Made of plywood. Beautifully finished. A necessary item for the house. 3 in. wide. Price 2/7 (1949) - 3/7 (1953/4) each.
No 14 - Dresser. 4½ in. high. Price 3/2 each (1947).
Walther & Stevenson kitchen furniture, painted blue: No 12, sink; No 13, stove, and No 14, dresser. Above, closed; below, doors open; bottom, side view.
1940s Walther & Stevenson kitchen furniture, with chairs which may be slightly earlier, in the dolls house they came in.
I have two Walther & Stevenson stoves, neither of which is identical to the one pictured in the catalogue. The blue-painted stove has handles which are more like those shown in the catalogue, but its hotplates, although they have been painted over, appear to be round, and all on the left side. The natural wood stove has rectangular hotplates in the same position as the stove in the catalogues, but has different handles. It seems possible that there were occasionally minor variations like this, which were not significant enough to warrant a new illustration for the catalogue.
Two Walther & Stevenson post-war stoves. Above, front view; below, side view.
Two Walther & Stevenson post-war stoves. Above, back view; below, bases.
In the lounge room, the sofa and chairs had a new straight, squat and solid design. The radio is similarly chunkier than the pre-war wireless.
No 7 - Radio. Size 2¼ in. high. Is necessary in all dolls houses (stained). Price 2/1 (1947), 1/11½ (1949) - 2/8 (1953/4).
No 15 - Lounge Chair. 2½ in. wide, attractively coloured. See No 16.
No 16 - Lounge. In a set of 3 pieces, lounge and 2 chairs. Lounge 4½ in. long. Price 5/4½ (1947) - 6/11 (1953/4) per set.
Walther & Stevenson post-war Lounge and Lounge Chairs, with Radio. These are part of the set I found on UK ebay. (The rug is not from Walther & Stevenson.)
The post-war hall stand had the same design - and even the same number - as in the pre-war catalogues. The "wheel tray" was now called a traymobile, and had a new number (4), but the same design as before the war. The post-war combined bookcase and desk was very similar to the pre-war one, but had a flattish top - and all the books are standing upright! A grandfather clock had been introduced by 1949. A fireplace was also available in 1947, but it is not shown in the later catalogues.
No 6 - Book Case. Size 4¾ in. high. For the lounge room, etc. Desk opens. Price 3/6 (1947) - 4/3 (1953/4).
No 23 - Grandfather Clock. An excellent ornamental piece, stained, 4 in. high. Price 1/5 (1949) - 2/1 (1953/4).
No 8 - Fire-place, 4½ in. long. 1/11 each (1947).
My Walther & Stevenson grandfather clock (missing the clock face), post-war bookcase, hall stand (missing the mirror, and with no sticks or umbrellas), in the dolls house they came in. (The table is not Walther & Stevenson - it's homemade from a cotton reel and two lids.)
Although the laundry and cleaning equipment, which had made a brief appearance before the war, is not included in the Walther & Stevenson post-war Australian-made range, a bathroom is. It's an updated version of the pre-war bathroom, with a basin, a bath, a bath heater (presumably this could represent either a chip heater, or the up-to-date kerosene heater being advertised in 1930s newspapers), with shower attachment, and a "W.C. pedestal".
No 9 - Bath. Size 4½ in. long. Price 1/4½ (1947) - 2/- each.
No 10 - Bath Heater and Shower. Size 5½ in. high. Price 1/8 (1947) - 2/2 (1953/4) each.
No 18 - Wash Basin. 2½ in. high with imitation taps. Price 1/10 (1949) - 2/2 (1953/4) each.
No 17 - W.C. Pedestal. Attractively made with movable lid. 1 3/8 in. high. Price 1/10 (1949) - 2/2 (1953/4) each.
Walther & Stevenson wash basin, front and side views. In the collection of Wendy Benson.
My Walther & Stevenson bathroom has clearly been used! The basin is slightly different from the one shown in the catalogue - it has a single tap, made from a split pin. The shower attachment on the bath heater, and the movable W.C. lid, are both missing. The mat is not from Walther & Stevenson.
Acknowledgements: Grateful thanks to Wendy Benson for allowing me to photograph her wonderful collection of Walther & Stevenson furniture, and to her husband Martin Benson for his help in the set-up.
Dolls' Houses in Australia 1870-1950, © Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales, 1999, is out of print, but secondhand copies can be found online.