The Pearce-McAllister Cottage, built in 1899, houses a splendid collection of dolls, miniatures, and toys. For those of you who do not think that this museum will interest you, I recommend reconsidering your outlook. I had the same misgivings–dolls aren’t my thing either. But toys are; these days I just have more expensive ones than when I was a kid.
There is plenty here to keep anyone engaged and absorbed for an hour or more. The museum has more than 10,000 artifacts in its collection. Artifacts that date from the 1700s to the present time.
Miniatures are perfect-in-scale, accurate replicas, of just about anything. They can be a person, building, car, animal, or whatever the craftsman decides to depict. They are more than just collectibles, and toys. Miniatures can have serious purposes. Architects, engineers, urban planners, and even military generals use miniatures to design skyscrapers, build machines, lay out cities, and plan battles.
The Nielson Gallery, directly to the right of the main entrance, contains The Someday House, a miniaturized replica of an actual home located at Gaylord and 1st Streets in Denver, Colorado. Completely furnished with miniature furniture, you can’t help but be impressed by the craftsmanship. In the same gallery is, among other impressive exhibits, a collection of dolls honoring the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Girl Scouts. The dolls depict how the Girl Scout and Brownie uniforms have changed since their introduction in 1915.
The adjoining room, towards the back of the house, has a doll display of American First Ladies. Once again I learned something new, to me that is. I did not know that some of the First Ladies were not married to the President of the United States. Elizabeth Taylor Bliss was Zachary Taylor’s daughter; Martha Johnson Patterson was Andrew Johnson’s daughter. Both assumed the obligations of the First Lady following their respective mother’s untimely death and inopportune, serious illness.
I always knew that the teddy bear is named for Theodore Roosevelt, but I did not know why. After three unsuccessful days of bear hunting in Mississippi, Roosevelt’s hunting guides tied an old, diseased bear to a tree for him to shoot. He said, “no!” A political cartoon made light of the event and, as a result of the famous cartoon, a shopkeeper began selling the now famous teddy bears. A German company called Steiff, however, made most teddy bears.
On the second floor is a toy room that contains the largest articulated teddy bear in the United States, a working model railroad, a Matchbox collection, a Lincoln Logs set, Tinker Toys, Legos, an Etch-a-Sketch, and an erector set. How many of us wish we still had some of these iconic and collectible toys? There are others, but the most interesting to me is a collection of classic-car models. It has Mercedes Benz, Duesenberg, and other classic car brands. You know the toys that our mom threw out when we left home are, more than likely, today valuable collectibles. Have you seen PBS’s Antiques Roadshow or The History Channel’s American Pickers, or Pawn Stars recently?
Also on the second floor is a Kachina doll display, a miniature Santa Fe-style home, and Charles’s Hendrickson’s three-ring circus miniature. Hendrickson, a former circus performer, spent years building the realistic depiction of a three-ring circus. After his death, a surviving family member donated the model to the museum. Severely damaged in shipping, the museum staff spent many hours carefully restoring this majestic work of art.
For a museum that I was not that excited about visiting, I have written as many words about it as I did on any of this website’s previous museum reviews. That’s because I enjoyed my nearly two-hour visit. And, as in my other reviews, I have only described a sample of what is on display for you. Give yourself at least an hour for your visit. Not only will you find it entertaining, you will find it educational and enlightening.