Special Exhibits Hall: Mrs. James Ward Thorne Memorial Wing
The Art Institute of Chicago: Thorne Miniature Rooms

Mrs. James Ward Thorne of Chicago loved dollhouses and miniatures as a child. After traveling in Europe where she collected miniature furniture and accessories, Mrs. Thorne commissioned over two dozen miniature rooms created by cabinetmakers from her own drawings. The scale is: one inch to one foot. The rooms were exhibited in the 1933-1934 Chicago's Century of Progress Exposition, the 1939 San Francisco's Golden Gate International Exposition, and in the 1940 New York World's Fair.

Later, Mrs. Thorne had 29 more rooms created, copying Europe's castles, museums and historic homes. She commissioned architects to create historically accurate settings and had the textiles and carpets made by the Needlework Guild of Chicago. The rooms showing the French and English architectural and decorating styles from the 1500's to the 1920's, were exhibited in 1937 at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1942 Mrs. Thorne gave 37 more Miniature Rooms to the Art Institute of Chicago. Those rooms offered views of American history between 1875 and 1940. The Art Institute of Chicago's Thorne Miniature Rooms exhibit of 68 individual rooms is said to be the world’s largest miniature room collection.

Below, the postcard images from the 1940's are in the left-hand column of the page and modern photographs* of the same room are in the right-hand column. Some items have been added, moved or are missing from some of the miniature rooms, between the postcards of the 1940's and the modern color photographs. Can you find any of the changes made to these miniature rooms?

Clicking an image opens a full size picture. Compare full size images side by side.
*All color photographs of the Thorne Miniature Rooms are the copyright of the Art Institute of Chicago.



 Kitchen, 18th Century Governor's Palace, Williamsburg, Virginia

 Living Room 1750-1850 Cape Cod Cottage

The West Parlor 1758-1787 Mount Vernon, Fairfax County, Virginia

Dining Room 1760 Wentworth Gardner House, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Drawing Room 1768 Jeremiah Lee Mansion, Marblehead, Massachusetts

Dining Room 1770-1774 Hammond-Harwood House, Annapolis, Maryland

Entrance Hall 1799 Pierce Mansion, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Living Room, About 1800, Shaker Community House

Bedroom, About 1801, Oak Hill, Peabody, Massachusetts

Entrance Hall 1835-1845 The Hermitage, near Nashville, Tennessee

Double Parlor, About 1850, House of a Georgia Planter

Parlor 1850-1875, 28 East 20th Street, New York City

Contemporary Dining Room, A House in New Mexico




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