From the very beginning The House of Miniatures based their designs on American Colonial era furniture. THoM researched the Chippendale and Queen Anne designs through the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. So, what was the nature of the Colonial Williamsburg connection?
The Colonial Williamsburg Connection
Sounds like a match made in heaven, right? The knowledge amassed through years of research by experts, made available to to designers of miniature furniture… yes please! But what about the commercial connection? Well, it looks as though that part didn’t flower as either one might have hoped.
In 1975 the United States was preparing for a huge celebration of its bicentennial. Soon the public was primed and seemed to be excited about 1976. Colonial cities wished to profit from the interest in the Declaration of Independence after the bicentennial of the Boston Tea Party in April of 1975.
Colonial Williamsburg was well placed to cash in on the trend. They were in a marketing battle with Philadelphia for tourists. Philadelphia had Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the homes of signers of the Declaration. Colonial Williamsburg had an entire city and tourist industry built around the events of 1776.
The House of Miniatures advertisements hit hobby magazines in 1976. Even though they did not use the word “Williamsburg” the ads evoked the Spirit of ’76. Even the lettering hinted at the style of Colonial Williamsburg. The foundation was celebrating its 50th anniversary. And it was receiving a lot of media attention, even from the New York Times. Everyone was cashing in on their Colonial Williamsburg connection.
Also, by 1976 the miniatures hobby was taking off. It must have become a valuable connection for Williamsburg, too. Miniature versions of Colonial furnishings (items in the decorative arts collection) began to appear in the official retail store. Soon those same items appeared in the official catalog of The House of Miniatures, as well.
Once The Party’s Over
After the Spirit of ’76 waned, in 1977 and later, the popularity of miniatures continued to rise. The House of Miniatures seemed to have a more equal business relationship with Colonial Williamsburg. THoM lifted designs for wallpapers, carpets, and the Peyton Randolph Office bookcase, kit #51113 from the archives of the foundation.
However, the country moved on from the celebration of the bicentennial. There was an over-saturation of bicentennial themed things, from vacations, to flags, to syrup bottles. By the end of the 1970’s, new designs from THoM were based on early New England Colonial furnishings. The Williamsburg miniatures began to disappear from THoM catalogs, even as the page count expanded.
Today the official Colonial Williamsburg items from The House of Miniatures are about as scarce as hen’s teeth. Which tells me that they never sold exceptionally well. What do you think, was it a match made in heaven? Do you have any Colonial Williamsburg miniatures in your collection? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below or in the discussion on the Facebook page.