British: Doll's house, American-English: dollhouse. Miniature homes -also known as dolls houses-, furnished with domestic articles and resident inhabitants, have been made for hundreds of years. The earliest known examples were found in the Egyptian Tombs of the Old Kingdom, created nearly five thousand years ago. These were wooden models of servants, furnishings, boats, livestock and pets and were almost certainly made for religious purposes. The earliest known European dolls houses are from the 16th Century. These hand made baby (or cabinet houses) showed idealized interiors complete with extremely detailed accessories and furnishings.
The early European dolls houses were each unique, constructed on a custom basis by individual craftsmen. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, factories began mass producing toys, including dolls houses and miniatures suitable for furnishing them. Some German companies noted for their dolls houses were Christian Hacker, Moritz Gottschalk, and Moritz Reichel. The list of important English companies includes Siber & Fleming, Evans & Cartwright, and Lines Brothers (which became Tri-ang). By the end of the Nineteenth Century American dollhouses were being made in the United States by The Bliss Manufacturing Company.
Germany was the producer of the most prized dollhouses and doll house miniatures up until The Great War. Notable German miniature companies included Marklin, Rock and Garner and others. Their products were not only avidly collected in Central Europe, but regularly exported to Britain and North America. Germany's involvement in WWI seriously impeded both production and export. New manufacturers in other countries arose.
The TynieToy Company of Providence, Rhode Island, made authentic replicas of American antique houses and furniture in a uniform scale beginning in about 1917. Other American companies of the early Twentieth Century were Roger Williams Toys, Tootsietoy, Schoenhut, and the Wisconsin Toy Co. Dollhouse dolls and miniatures were also produced in Japan, mostly by copying original German designs.
After World War II, dollshouses became mass produced in factories on a much larger scale with less detailed craftsmanship than ever before. By the 1950's, the typical dollhouse sold commercially was painted sheet metal filled with plastic furniture. The cost of these houses was low enough to allow the great majority of girls from the developed western countries that were not struggling with rebuilding after World War II to own a dollhouse.