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HOBBIES The Magazine for Collectors, January, 1943

Children's Toys of Victorian Days
By Thelma Shull

TOYS made during the 19th century are collectable items for adults of today. The toys of earlier years were not all of such simplified form and mechanism as one would ordinarily suppose.
        In the early days of Victoria's long reign, children played with dolls of wood and of wax, balls, kites, hoops, and tin-barreled spring-guns which could propel a skewer for 20 feet. Jumping Jacks, rocking horses, Noah's Arks, and toy soldiers were as popular then as they have continued to be through the following years. Miniature millinery shops complete with bonnets and salesmen, dolls' theaters, picture galleries, and dolls' houses were made for the children of wealthy parents. These tiny models, complete to the last detail, were made in Denmark, Italy and Austria, and probably other countries, too; but the majority of them came from Germany.
At Oberammergau, Christmas toys were made including  church altars, tiny mangers, wise men, and wooden figures holding candelabra which brightened the festive season when the candles were lighted. Hand-colored paper dolls, each having eight or ten dresses, were printed in Germany during the first half of the century. In the United States, paper dons were made by Randolph in 1856 and McLoughlin Brothers about 1860. Spun-glass houses, castles, full-rigged ships and shepherds with their flocks were made by early glass-blowers of America as toys for their own children and those of their friends.
        In the 1850's, a mechanical conjurer or magician operated by clock-work was exhibited at Boulogne. A jeweler spent eight years perfecting this automaton. This mechanical wonder juggled balls and could make them disappear, produced goblets out of thin air, rolled his eyes and bowed modestly to his audience. Later handiwork of the jeweler was a number of mechanically operated birds which flew a short distance and sang sweetly.
        In 1855, Theroude of France made a number of automata. He had a goat which wagged its ears, a rabbit that digested by clockwork, and a doll which played the guitar while other dolls danced the polka; The toy-maker Giroux was making dolls which said Papa and Mama. Bontem, another manufacturer, made an artificial aviary. This was a miniature garden with a flowing brook and birds that sang and hopped from bough to bough.
        In the 1860's, toy telegraphs and electrical machines of various kinds were deluxe playthings. There were also microscopes, magic lanterns, dissolving views and endless modifications of the kaleidoscope. The kaleidoscope, a popular toy for several generations, was invented in 1817 by Sir David Brewster. It quickly received adult recognition and was often kept in the parlor. The finest kaleidoscopes were mounted on swiveled stands. The myriad pieces of glass, which formed intriguing de- signs as the disc was slowly turned, assumed an endless succession of patterns. These bits of glass were spiral shaped, or were tiny formations similar to shells or miniature hollow balls with a drop of water inside, much more interesting than the flat pieces of glass used in modern kaleidoscopes. \
A miscellaneous assortment of toys was made from India-rubber and gutta-percha. While in earlier days ,balls had been made of sheepskin filled with hay, in the 1860's there were balls of caoutchouc, which is another name for rubber. The balls were made in all sizes, some as small as a walnut and others almost as large as our modern basketball. Some were of solid rubber while others were hollow. Doll heads were also made of rubber.
        The carved wooden parrots, made in the 1860's, could utter wild screams at the instigation of their youthful owners. Mice and rats ran across the room by means of clockwork hidden within. Carts and wagons were drawn by horses set to clockwork. Frogs leaped and croaked, kittens lapped milk from a saucer, and birds perched and fluttered their wings. Metal tops would spin for 20 minutes or more at a time. There were toys called prismatic bubbles, aurora bubbles, Pharaoh's serpents, and Chinese fires.
        During the 1870's, toys much in evidence were magic lanterns, dolls, performing animals, money safes, tin soldiers, magnetic toys, .and model locomotives with passenger cars and tracks. Some of these small locomotives were driven by the flame of an alcohol lamp. The oval track was often as much as 25 feet in length.
        In the V1illage of St. Ulrich, in the Southern Tyrol, wood-carving was the work of practically the entire population. Toys were made in great numbers and dolls were their specialty. Each family in the Village had its own work; some carved, some painted, others did the gilding, etc. They worked from vivid memories kept sharp through constant practice. One family might make the lions, tigers and camels while another made the sheep, oxen and deer. Still another family made the birds, and others the tiny men and women. When the animals and figures had been carved, they were taken to still other families who did the coloring.
        One girl at St. Ulrich painted dolls for a farthing (half a cent) a dozen. She deftly added black eyes, eyebrows and hair, vermillion cheeks, rose-colored lips, red shoes and white stockings. Her sister and mother were also painters. Her father was a carver of dolls and horses.
        One gentleman of St. Ulrich made rocking-horses, as the sign painted over the door of his shop plainly showed. He turned out at least a thousand every year. He also made little carts on wheels and numerous animals in white wood. Most of these smaller animals he left unpainted because of the probability of their future owners wanting to eat the paint.
        Herr Purger and Herr Insam were owners of the largest toy warehouses in this city. Dolls made in St. Ulrich measured from an inch in length up to nearly three feet. Most of them were jointed and only a few were painted. The two-inch size was a very popular length. One merchant of St. Ulrich bought 30,000 dolls in
the two-inch size every week through-out the year! He distributed them to the far corners of the globe. Each skilful worker could turn out 20 dozen small figures in a day. Aside from dolls and Noah's Arks, rocking-horses and carts, the people in this city made complete armies of wooden soldiers, well-stocked farm-yards, dolls' furniture, and wooden teacups and saucers.
        Toys of motion, such as railroads, etc., were the specialty of the people of Biberach, in Wurtemberg. The population of the city of Furth, about six miles from Nuremberg, was entirely devoted to the making of Noah's Arks, puzzles, and other wooden toys


        During the 1870's, in America, Ives, Blakeslee and Company of Bridgeport, Conn., was making mechanical toys, as was also the American Mechanical Toy Company of New York. G. L. Wild and Brother of Washington, D. C., made musical dancing toy attachments for pianos. Dan Dudley, at Philadelphia, made board games such as dominoes and chess. The India Rubber Comb Company of New York City was making hard rubber doll heads. W. D. Goodwin of New Haven, Conn., manufactured toy money-safes. These banks recorded each coin as it was dropped in. Mrs. R. .E. Jenkins, located at Bordertown, N. J., specialized in making dolls' shoes.
        Other American-made toys of this period included the automatic bubble-blower a mechanical figure which put a pipe in the suds, blew the bubbles, and jerked the pipe to dislodge them so that they would float away. Another contrivance was two doll gymnasts who exercised with boxing-gloves. Still another was a gymnast who walked a tight rope on his hands. This was operated by cranks and a clock movement. A dancing doll was operated by means of an electro-magnet. A mechanical toy for very young children was two dolls pushing a trundle bed. They held rattles in their hands which added to their attractiveness.
       Parisian toys of 1879 ran to excessive prices. In London, too, they were high. Dolls were priced at $15 and up. Clocks for the mantels of doll houses really worked, and the miniature pianofortes could he played. Waxen ladies drank their tea from tiny cups of real china. Parisian dolls were numbered and their clothing- including shoes, hats, dresses, etc. could be ordered according to number. The milliners and seamstresses of Paris all made doll clothes to correspond in size with the numbers, so that shopping for a doll was a simple matter and a pleasant one, too.
        By 1890 there were a number of fine mechanical toys on the market. Nuremberg, famous toy-making center of Germany, produced merry-go-rounds, with bicycle riders on the old high-seaters being the chief per- formers. Some merry-go-rounds had a music box hidden within, which tinkled merrily as the riders circled above. Another musical toy was a dovecot which played as the birds appeared to eat. Still another mechanical toy from Nuremberg was a span of four white horses driven by a bareback rider with whip and reins in hand. This moved forward by means of clockwork hidden in the box under the seat. Clockwork toys of musicians playing musical instruments were made in both Germany and France around 1900.
        Penny banks rightfully belong with the toys of Victorian days. These practical devices were made of tin, iron, pottery, glass, wood, and Pennsylvania chalk ware. Among the still iron banks were those resembling horses and horses' heads, pigs, dogs, cats, lions, circus clowns, Santa Claus, buildings, money safes, and others too numerous to mention. Among the pottery banks were colorful cottages from the Staffordshire district in England. There were also pottery pigs, Rockinghan cats of mottled brown, dogs, jugs, books and teapots. There was a tin bank shaped like a drum and a glass bank which was a replica of the Liberty Bell. Wooden banks were shaped like barrels, buildings, beehives, etc.
         Iron mechanical banks, most popular of all types of toys with present-day collectors, with the exception of dolls, were made in great numbers between 1875 and 1900. There was the Sleighride, Merry-Go-Round, William Tell, Croquet Player, Girl Skipping Rope, North Pole Bank and dozens of others.
        The collector of children's toys has a wide field in which to explore. Because of the many types of toys available, specialization is most practical for the hobbyist.

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