Elizabeth Anderson started collecting antique miniatures at an early age, favoring decorative dollhouses and décor from the R. Bliss Manufacturing Company of Rhode Island.
Anderson — who moved to Eureka in 1953 and worked as a nurse at General and St. Joseph hospitals and a nursing instructor at Humboldt State — was born in 1925 and passed away in 2003. After her death, Anderson’s family donated her collection of dollhouses and small furniture to the Clarke Historical Museum in Eureka. Now, that collection can be seen at the museum, located at 240 E St. in Eureka, in both the Community Case and a special display area by Nealis Hall.
“The Bliss company started in 1830, making all kinds of little wooden pieces for things like pianos. At some point … they started making dollhouses and that’s what they’re known for now. They’re all made out of solid wood,” said Katie Buesch, Main Hall registrar at the Clarke Museum. The company was in operation, she said, until 1930.
The dollhouses’ sturdy construction is attributed to Bliss’ use of nails rather than glue to construct the houses, Buesch said.
Another trademark of Bliss toys was the chromolithographed paper applied to each piece, adding colorful and decorative detail to the work. Each dollhouse also has the Bliss name or logo placed somewhere within the design, according to the National Museum of Toys/Miniatures in Missouri (toysandminiaturemuseum.org.).
“All the (interior) pieces shown here came with the dollhouses they’re in,” Buesch said. “… Some of the pieces are actually worth as much as full-size furniture because of their rarity.”
Anderson, who also collected Victorian-era Biedermeier dollhouse furniture, made many of the rugs in her dollhouses using needlepoint and petit point. The case near Nealis Hall that displays some of her collection was built by Anderson’s husband to display her collectibles.
“They’re very detailed pieces,” Buesch said. “The (miniature) candles have little burn marks on the top of them.”
The Community Case at the Clarke Historical Museum changes topics every few months and houses all types of historical items from people and groups in the region.
“If someone wants to have a display in here,” she said, “whether it’s for an organization they’re in or if they just have a collection and they want to show it, they can just get in contact with museum. We check the calendar to see when there’s an opening and we fit people in.”
Other featured exhibits now on display at the Clarke Museum include “From Boom to Bust … And Back: Early Industries of Humboldt County, 1850-1915” and “Women’s Ceremonial Dresses: From Long Ago to Today.”
To find out more about the availability of the Community Case, call 707-443-1947 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the Clarke Museum, go to www.clarkemuseum.org. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Suggested admission donation is $5 per person or $10 for families.