Small Talk

Toys That Run Like Clockwork

Tete Jumeau Mechanical Doll

With the prevalence of Furbys and Tickle-Me-Elmos in toy stores today, it’s not too hard to imagine toys that move and make noise. But how about a doll from the 1800s that can walk, row, swim, or write?! It doesn’t just happen in the movies, they really existed!

Automata are figures or dolls with clockwork mechanisms that allow them to move, write, and even draw pictures! The Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey is home to the Murtogh D. Guiness Collection of 750 mechanical musical instruments and automata.

Stay tuned… The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures has several automata in our collection that we’ll be featuring here over the next several months like this Tete Jumeau Doll.

All About Scale

Spinning Wheels

At The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, the little “m” in our logo stands for fine-scale miniatures. So, what is a fine-scale miniature? It’s a high quality, functioning object that is built to scale. Scale is the defined size ratio between the full size object and the miniature object. Most of the miniatures in T/m’s collection are 1:12 scale (or 1/12 scale) where one inch in the miniature equals one foot in the full-scale object.

The spinning wheel on the right is in the 1:12 scale. The one on the left is in the 1:6 scale where two inches in the miniature equals one foot in the full-scale object. Not only are we super impressed by the craftsmanship, but also by all the tricky math involved in creating these perfectly scaled masterpieces!

Wooden Wonders

Schoenhut Circus Clown

Many of the toys unwrapped this holiday season are made out of plastic, battery operated, or contain some sort of glowing screen. This obviously wasn’t always the case—some of the earliest American toy companies’ playthings consisted of simple, painted wood. The first major American company to break into the German-dominated toy-making industry was the Schoenhut Company. The Philadelphia company was founded in 1872 by Albert Schoenhut, a German immigrant who came from a long line of toymakers. Although his father and grandfather focused on making wooden rocking horses, wagons, and dolls, Schoenhut branched out into toy pianos.

By 1912, with an extensive line of toys, Schoenhut Company was America’s largest toy company and the first to begin exporting toys to Germany. The Schoenhut Company still exists today, although they now exclusively make toy musical instruments, including toy pianos. Albert Schoenhut’s legacy is not only an important part of American history, but also continues to influence musicians today.

Time To Get Packin’

Packing Objects

The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, formerly the Toy and Miniature Museum of Kansas City, closed temporarily yesterday to begin renovations. Between now and early 2015, we’ll be replacing our HVAC system and improving our exhibits and interpretation.

First order of business? Packing up our 72,000+ objects. And if you’ve ever moved before, you can imagine the number of boxes we’ll need! We wish we could just wave a magic wand and have it all safely and archivally packed away. Realistically, we know it’ll be more like playing tetris. Trust us, we’re just as sad as you are to see our great pieces go into storage. But the good news is you’re already in the right place to explore our collection that “speaks for itself.” Tune in each week to discover something new!

What’s Olds is New Again

Curved Dash Oldsmobile

Because we don’t really see vehicles like the Curved-Dash Oldsmobile on the road anymore, it’s hard to believe that the full-size version of this toy was the most popular car in the beginning of the 20th century. Built between 1901 and 1907, the sled-like “horseless carriage” was the first mass-produced, gasoline engine automobile in the world. The wide-spread popularity of the new technology influenced toy companies like ACME Toy Works to emulate the Oldsmobile’s details, right down to the tiller steering and turn crank to start the engine!

Toys, after all, are a sign of the times in which they were made. What child wouldn’t want to drive their own newfangled automobile in 1903? The best-selling truck in 2013 was Ford’s F-Series, so it is no coincidence that parents can find small versions and large versions at the toy store!

Page 12 of 18« First...1011121314...Last »