Elaborate cabinet-style doll houses, in which the rooms on one side of a structure are exposed like the shelves and nooks of a cabinet, were popular among wealthy and noble-born Germans of the 17th century. These show pieces were designed less for play with dolls than as curiosities, as they were often filled with real miniature pieces of silver, as well as porcelain dishes from Asia. Tiny chandeliers hung from ceilings, working doors with real hinges connected adjoining rooms, and mirrors hung on their walls. Chairs were upholstered, beds were covered by perfectly scaled bedspreads, and wool rugs were laid out on hardwood floors.
Early American doll houses were largely influenced by their Dutch and German forebears. In fact, by the early 19th century, German companies were exporting a great deal of doll-house furniture to the United States. As color lithography became common in the Victorian Era, the rooms of doll houses were often papered with brightly colored wallpaper, while the exteriors sometimes featured patterns resembling bricks. American companies producing doll houses on a large scale in the first decades of the 20th century include Bliss Manufacturing, Converse Toy and Woodware, Schoenhut, Tootsietoy, and Dowst Brothers.