Mice entice us with the secretive lives they lead, the contrast between their resourcefulness and diminutive size, and their undeniable cuteness. We love to root for the little guy; mice give us lots of opportunities to do just that. Maybe that's why there are so many stories about these miniature-scaled animals. Beatrix Potter’s tales of an English farmhouse frequently included mouse characters, and provided subject matter for a long line of ceramic figurines by companies like Royal Albert and Beswick. First editions of American author E.B. White’s illustrated children's books featuring the audacious Stuart Little are also highly desirable.
The Mighty Mouse cartoon character, developed in the 1940s as a Superman parody, gained widespread popularity after his television show debut in 1955. Subsequent merchandising included everything from costumes to comic books. Of course, Walt Disney also gave the world a few favorite mice, from Dumbo’s buddy Timothy to Cinderella’s crowd of little friends. In the animated short “Ben and Me,” a bumbling Ben Franklin gets all his best ideas from his mistreated mouse pal, Amos, while in “The Rescuers,” a team of adventure-seeking mice solve mysteries and save lives. And, of course, the mouse who needs no introduction, Mickey, has been promoted on everything from wristwatches and lunch boxes to still banks and cookie jars.
Mouse figurines are a perennial collector favorite, from Steuben’s giant slice of cheese topped with a golden mouse to Lladro’s detailed porcelain animals. More abstract were the mice figures from producers like Royal Crown Derby and Swarovski. Figurines depicting mice wearing clothing and performing human activities are also common, although the Vienna bronze mice created at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, standout examples of this style, are quite rare. Vienna bronze mice were individually hand-cast and hand-painted, and often portrayed characters from classic fairy tales.
Other companies made household products decorated with mice, like enamelware containers with mouse patterns or candy dishes with mice perched on their rims. Particularly sought are Thomas Minton’s majolica vases showing mice in nature, as well as mice-shaped Japanese netsuke carved from ivory.
From Aesop’s fable “The Lion and The Mouse” to contemporary duos like Tom and Jerry, cat-and-mouse pairings have long fascinated children and adults alike. Early wind-ups toys such as Schuco’s cat and mouse holding hands captured the great dichotomy of this odd couple. More recently, the twosome was taken to violent extremes on “The Itchy and Scratchy Show,” a bizarre and disturbing cartoon within the animated universe of “The Simpsons.”