1940's Shadowbox

We went to the miniatures trade show last weekend, and returned with a back seat full of bags of miniatures, which are finally all sorted, tagged, photographed, measured, and in the store. The US mail, UPS, and Fedex will be arriving with more things to sort, tag, photograph, measure, and add to the store during the next few weeks. Some, I am sure, are on their way right now.

Meanwhile, last night I started fooling about with my mother's 1940's kitchen room box. I wrote a little about it in my post about the kitchen roombox I made for my mom several years ago.
I found this ad in the back of the April, 1947 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine. Back then, the box cost #4.95, postpaid. My version is a little different, but it was obviously made by the same company.
I noticed last night, that the door in my little room could be opened. There was no knob, and I couldn't see any sign of glue from one, but since the frame was coming unglued, I pried it off. I found a painted scene inside.
Although the scene looks pretty fresh in this photo, in real life it was terribly grungy. I took a chance and tried to wipe off some of the grime, but discovered it was painted in watercolor. I dried the sections I had wiped right away. I'll be painting a new scene.
You'll notice in the picture, that the door has a Z on it, to simulate the cross boards. The front of the door is plain, so I imagine it was meant to stay open. Maybe that's why the frame work structure next to the door confused me originally. I had guessed that it was meant to be bunkbeds, and once I took a close look, I could see that nothing had been glued to it. With the door open like that, it's obvious that they're bunkbeds. I'll have to make some bedding for them.

Here's a closeup of the fireplace, with a fire painted on the wooden boards.
The paint used on the chimney is an oil paint, and I found I could wash it with no trouble. The hanging put is securely attached on a wire, and I won't try to remove it for cleaning. The red pot next to the fireplace is also firmly attached. One of the benches was partially loose, and when I cleaned the table, I found that the glue on the back leg washed off easily. I thought I'd try to pry off the bench, but discovered that it was nailed to a support, and wouldn't come out without a fight. I decided not to fight. Apparently several kinds of paint and glue were used on this scene. Some wash off, some don't.
You can see what the wood originally looked like, underneath the painted door panel.
The splotchiness is where it's still damp. I had to remove the old glue and bits of cardboard that were under the original scene. I decided to use vinegar, and although it loosened up the debris, I found that the lines that simulated the boards and nails were done in a paint that could wash off with a little scrubbing.
I think the only further cleaning I'll do will be the gentle kind.
Many of the original pieces are left. I can pretty much tell where they might have originally stood, because of the glue marks and residue on the table and shelves.
I have one extra lid. It doesn't fit the red pot by the stove properly, so I think I may be missing a pot.
I also found some extras that I and maybe my younger sister added to the scene. I think my mother had stashed away the shadowbox before my brother and youngest sister showed up.
The two gray barrels are plastic and say "powder". I remember having a western style playset, maybe they came from that. The other, black barrel, was originally red. the black paint washed off and made a huge mess when I started cleaning it last night. The green lid and bowl are plastic. The bowl is stamped made in Hong Kong. The comb is plastic, painted tan, and the wooden yellow ball fits the extra red lid, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't an original piece.
The metal "cauldron" looks like it was an ashtray.
. There's some paint on it, which I'd like to remove, but there are also some tiny spots of rust on the metal. I don't want to damage it. Even if I don't replace it in this scene, I may want to use it in another project. It's cute.

If you'd like to read about the restoration, click here.


  1. I like the rustic charm of this shadowbox, and I'm glad your mum didn't throw it away after all. I guess she removed it from your sight and gave you the impression it had been discarded so that you wouldn't ask for it and unintentionally damage it any further. Great that you are restoring it now.

    I like your 'extras': it is always fascinating looking at what was original with a house or a room box and what has been added by children playing. It just shows the imagination of the child who has brought things in to enhance a scene - this is certainly my experience of my Triang house, as many of the objects in the house were not intended for dolls houses but happened to be near the right scale or more or less the right shape http://dollmum.blogspot.com/2009/08/close-ups-of-indoors-of-triang-house.html. I look at them now and marvel at how much pretend play fun we had with simple finds.

  2. I also have one of those shadow boxes that I had to redo due to the placement in a kitchen. It got covered with the dirty greese through the years. It is now back in good shape and placed in another area, away friom cooking.
    I loved that shadow box for many years before it became mine. It belonged to my mother-in-law when I first saw it.

  3. Cool! Is yours one of the ones shown or different?