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Architect’s Classroom, circa 1900

Made in 1/12th scale by Wm. R. Robertson, 1988-1993


This miniature architect’s classroom measures 24” by 33” and 19” from the floor to the top of the vaulted ceiling. William R. Robertson made it between 1988 and 1993, taking approximately 2,000 hours. This isn’t a copy of any particular classroom but instead a composite of many. Robertson’s research encompassed reading books, magazines and trade catalogs dated around the 1900s, as well as visiting period buildings. 


He matched the paint colors from samples taken from an old room and spun the working light fixtures from tin, then enameled them. The sprinkler heads are copies of the Grinnell patent from 1892, and they’re installed to the standards of the period. A large skylight lets in the sunlight, which can be defused by the chain-operated shade. The sliding blackboard is equipped with movable straight edge, boxwood triangles, protractor and chalk compass. The instructions for a Corinthian capital, copied from Asher Benjamin’s “American Builders Companion”, are drawn on the blackboard. In addition, there’s a plaster model of a capital below it. Flip charts on the easel and wall rack were copied from Banister Fletchers’s famous work “A History of Architecture”. The walls, covered with framed, matted and glazed prints, include some original hand colored steel lithographs from the 1850s by LeBlond and Baxter. Others are reduced-sized copies.


The blueprint-making equipment is the type that exposes sunlight to the photo-sensitive paper mounted in frames by rolling out the window on its tracks. An automatic washing box and drying rack were copied from Oscar Perrigo’s 1906 book “Modern Machine Shop Construction, Equipment and Management”. The drawing storage cabinets, made of cherry with rolls of paper and a device to cut it to length, came from the same book.  


Robertson copied the tables and stools from Keuffel and Esser Co. catalogs. They have cast bronze bases with his initials and the date cast in raised letters. All the parts were machined so the tables raise, lower and tilt using either the gear and rack (on the three large tables) or the knurled knobs. The stools raise, lower and turn while rolling on casters with steel wheels.


The large ebony and maple Tee-squares are working copies of Dietzen’s patent micrometer adjustment. Robertson used L.S. Starrett’s ornate cast head model as the prototype for the small nickeled Tee-square. The assorted types of triangles are made of maple, boxwood and pear wood, with many having edges lined in rosewood. 


Throughout the room there are a number of different types of boxed sets of drafting tools. The rosewood boxes, decorated with ivory escutcheons, have working button latches and are lined in silk. Both the ivory rules and nickel silver protractors are graduated, divided and signed. There are hinged parallels in ebony or ivory with brass arms and rolling parallels in brass. Robertson cut the curves out of pear wood. The top tray of drawing instruments contains German silver compasses, dividers, spring bows, proportional dividers, trammels and ivory-handled ruling pens that are fixed in place. There is a complete watercolor paint set in the bottom drawer of the largest set. The same sets, boxed separately, contain a tray of 14 Windsor Newton colors, sloping tile, glass and pewter bottles, ivory and pear wood pallets, blotters, erasers, crayons, pens, pencils, real brushes and even a thumb tack lifter. The pencils have lead in them and can actually write. There are even pencil sharpeners scattered around the room.


A scale model cut-away of a house section is 3 1/2” high. The three wire wastebaskets are made of steel wire with 1,020 soldered joints in each one. They are filled with trashed drawings. 


Robertson said the room was “a whole lot of fun” to create. When people look at the room, they’re transported to a different time and place. The miniature architect’s classroom is on permanent display at The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures in Kansas City, Missouri.

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