ARTS & ANTIQUES, Vol. 1, Number 4, February,
OF ANTIQUE TOYS
AT THE HALLMARK GALLERY
The fascination of antique toys cannot be explained wholly by nostalgia for
the past or by the fun of collecting, said one zealot recently. "The eternal
youngster in all of us has only to glimpse a certain toy to start dreaming of
Indians and castles, daring rescues and demonic speeds."
Toys of the American past
which, between 1850 and 1920, surpassed the world in originality and
craftsmanship, in themselves compose a history of the era itself and of a huge
and unique American toy industry. And that is more than a hint of the character
they helped impart to the children who delighted in them.
In the cap pistols an
cannons, the fiddling bears, the flaming fire-fighting equipment, the circus
wagons and merry-go-rounds, the dolls and doll houses, the tinkling musical
instruments, and the unending stream of startling realistic trains, automobiles,
boats, motorcycles and horse-drawn vehicles there emerged the most powerful
stimulant to childish imaginations ever to come from a nation's technology.
More than five hundred
examples of these playthings have been mounted in settings appropriate to their
era at the Hallmark Gallery on New York's Fifth Avenue at 56th Street.
Jerry Smith of Kansas City,
Missouri, with part of his collection
of over 2,000 toys collected over the past 12 years.
Jerry Smith Collection
These antique toys,
on loan from one of the largest private collections in the world, are only a
small sampling of the total Jerry Smith of Kansas City, Mo. has gathered since
the collecting "bug" bit him one day in 1954. Now 48 and a successful automobile
dealer, Smith is the possessor of what is probably the most valuable private
collection and one which ranks with those of the New York Historical Society and
the Henry Ford Museum.
lost" to collecting today, he recalls that his first acquisition in the early
1950's, was an act typical of the toy lover: He set out to find a small iron
tractor like the one he had received as a six-year-old. That was a year when
money was scarce for the Smiths' large Kansas farm family and although young
Jerry had "ordered a long list of toys from Santa, his sole gift was the toy
farm tractor. The much-loved toy became a symbol for him later in life.
Old-time tractors and farm
To his surprise, Smith's
sister-in-law found no less than four cast iron toys and presented them to him.
Noting that several of these bore the brand of McCormic-Deering, he concluded
there might be other models in a series, and began to hunt. There were. He found
them, and the Smith collection was launched.
High On Iron
Smith's special interests
are the iron and tin toys. But his collection embraces not only iron and tin,
but wooden toys, electric, steam and clockwork toys, musical toys, games, toy
household equipment, pull toys, and many fine example of European toys. His
oldest pieces date back to about 1850.
Circus scene by Schoenhut,
popular in the early 20th Century.
For the Hallmark Gallery
he was able to mobilize more than 100 vintage passenger cars, trucks and taxis
in graduated sizes so that when installed in the exhibition the effect is of a
mile-long stream of traffic typical of a New York street scene shortly after the
turn of the century. Some 50 pieces of the fire-fighting equipment, also of
various sizes, are similarly shown converging on the scene of a blaze in the
Despite the fact that
Smith is the father of three teen-age daughters (who sometimes present him with
toys, reversing the usual father-child gift procedure), he has only a few dolls
in his collection. But he does possess a host of other toys that intrigued the
little girls of the nineteenth century. He has tiny sewing machines whose parts
move smoothly and professionally, doll carriages, choice pieces of iron
furniture, little iron stoves that are exact replicas of the real ones, clothes
irons, pianos and other musical toys. There is a rare model kitchen complete
with stove, pots and pans and a working water pump.
Knows His Horses
are of special interest to Smith, perhaps because he loves riding, owns nine
head of riding stock and an acreage adjacent to an eight-mile-long bridle path
through a timbered tract at the edge of Kansas City. A good judge of real
livestock, he applies the same standards to his judgment of toy horses.
"That's a great horse;
note how straight his back is," he says, pointing out a tiny gray mare between
the shafts of a tiny racing cart. Or, "Look at the manes of those fire horses;
they're exactly right." He spent two years searching for a rare tallyho coach
drawn by four prancing horses — and found it.
But he is no less
perceptive and knowledgeable about other toys and can identify the period, maker
and relative value of any toy at a glance. "That's a work of art," he will say
in reference to a particular train, for example, or "there is a classic design,"
of an iron hansom cab.
But to Jerry Smith, and
perhaps to all toy lovers and collectors, it is the trains and their locomotives
that hold a special enhancement. Smith has 100 or more trains — he isn't sure of
the exact number — ranging from a tin model of the Union Pacific's "Lightning"
through iron models of early Pennsylvania and New York, New Haven and Hartford
locomotives to later clockwork, friction, steam and electric models that even
youngsters of today would hunger for.
Toy model of an International
Harvester truck from the early 1920s.
Toys Trace History
"You can almost
follow the development of this country through its toys," he said. "After the
first hand made playthings, you can trace the point where people broke away from
making things at home and started to accept manufactured goods. You can pinpoint
the development of the steamboat, firearms, telephone, the transcontinental
train, and all later forms of transportation, the introduction of electricity,
and of course the space age."
But toys, to Smith, are
more than history. They must be fun, too. He grins.
ARTS & ANTIQUES, Volume 1, Number 4, 75¢
A list of mechanical banks currently available from the world famous
toy shop of F. A. O. SCHWARZ, 745 Fifth Ave., New York City.
Always Spise Mule
Always Spise Mule
Bill E. Grin
Boy on Trapeze
Building (8 sided)
Cat & Mouse
Chief Big Moon
Clown on Globe
Dog on Base
Dog on Turntable
Eagle & Eaglettes
Elephant w. Clown
Frog on Rock
Frog on Stump
Globe on Stand
Globe on Arc
Home Tin Bank
Jonah & Whale
Lion & Monkey
Mason Hod Carrier
Merry Go Round
Mule Entering Barn
Organ Boy & Girl
Sm. Organ w. Monkey
Paddy & Pig
Pig in High Chair
Punch & Judy
ALL BANKS SUBJECT
TO PRIOR SALE