Just Suits, Unknown Artist from Malden, Massachusetts, ca. 1900

The spectacular miniature house known as Just Suits was built in Malden, Massachusetts, sometime around 1900. According to the story that has always accompanied the miniature, the builder died soon after completing it, the victim of an accident involving an unlucky encounter with a horse-drawn buggy. The owners of the house commemorated his passing by adding figures of a skeleton leaning against a lamppost and a devil riding a velocipede. A small buggy, sans-horse, completed the memorial.
Dozens of wooden cigar boxes became the lumber from which this elaborate house was constructed, sometime around 1900. The builder might have favored the Just Suits brand, as the remnant of a box of Just Suits londrette cigars was found in the miniature’s attic. Several stamped logos identifying the Buchanan & Lyall tobacco company are still visible beneath the attic roof.
Cigar boxes were a popular resource for folk artists and craftsmen of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Small bundles of cigars originally were packaged in pig bladders – not the most appealing material for miniaturists – but when wooden boxes became the standard in the 1850s, artists suddenly found a plentiful source of raw material. Although aromatic cedar was the most popular type of wood for cigar packaging, the boxes crafted into the walls and shingles of this house were made of walnut.
Read more about Just Suits in Minis Magnified Issue no. 47