Small Talk

Rainbow Loom On

Keep Calm and Rainbow Loom On

I’m sure you’ve heard of Beanie Babies, Pogs, Tamagotchi, and Silly Bandz. But have you heard of Rainbow Loom?! It’s currently flying off store shelves.

The loom was invented by an engineer wanting to spend quality time with his daughters, but with fingers too large to participate. The easy-to-use loom weaves jewelry using a plastic pegboard and mini, multicolored rubber bands. The company’s YouTube channel and an exploding social community exhibit the endless possibilities. So what’s not to love? It’s a entrepreneurial, toy business success story based on family and reinventing a classic toy.

Thought Rainbow Loom sounded familiar too? That’s because the concept isn’t that different from pot holder weaving sets. Rainbow Loom fosters creativity, focus, fine motor skills, and patience; some have even argued that it promotes digital literacy. One thing is for sure: it’s created a lot of “kidpreneurs” selling rubber bracelets instead of lemonade at roadside stands near you. Keep calm and Rainbow Loom on!

Love Chest

HadleyChest

The full-scale version of this Hadley Chest belonged to Hepzibah Dickinson. Carved with her initials in the inner panel, she received it as a wedding gift when she married Jonathan Belding of Northfield, Massachusetts in 1720. A traditional gift for the time, it would have been on every bride’s Target Wedding Registry (kidding!). Hadley chests are heavy, wide-board, mortise-and-tenoned chests painted and elaborately carved with leaves and flat flowers (tulips were the most popular). The chest’s name derives from its place and time period of origin: western Massachusetts between 1680 and 1740.

We doubt our version would store all of Hepzibah’s clothes and linens! The 1/12-inch scale chest by Linda LaRoche and James Hastrich is a replica of the full-scale version in the furniture collection of Historic Deerfield. The miniature Hadley chest was also the result of a happy union: it is the first collaborative piece of the artists. In 2011, LaRoche and Hastrich visited T/m to talk about their labor of love.

Happy Birthday Toy and Miniature Museum

Museum Grand Opening 1982

Who didn’t love “show and tell?!” Bringing a prized baseball card or pet hamster to share with classmates gave us that warm, fuzzy feeling that we now know as pride and happiness. We’re guessing that’s exactly what museum cofounders Mary Harris Francis (second from the left) and Barbara Marshall (first from the left) felt when they opened the Toy and Miniature Museum this week in 1982.

Both collected small things: Francis coveted antique toys, imperfect in scale and well-loved. Marshall sought artfully-crafted, fine-scale miniatures. After years of acquiring, they opened the museum in the Tureman mansion on the University of Missouri- Kansas City campus in order to share their vast collections.

Since then, the Toy and Miniature Museum has expanded twice, received donations from over 2,000 individuals, broken a Guinness World Record, and become a local treasure. As we transition to The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, we look forward to a future filled with “show and tell.”

Toys Go To War

German Toy Soldiers Set

True or False? World events, including war, have influenced toys. True! You may have even played with some of these toys, from green army men, first made in 1938 by Bergen Toy & Novelty Company to Hasbro’s 1964 action figure G.I. JoeWar Games, a new exhibit at the V&A Museum of Childhood explores the role of warfare in children’s play.

Toys have served as propaganda tools, entrenching children with militarism and nationalism. For example, did you know that G.I. Joe, “America’s moveable fighting man,” was repackaged in the United Kingdom as Action Man and was so popular that it won UK Toy of the Year in 1966 and UK Toy of the Decade in 1980? Well, as G.I. Joe says in one of his famous public service announcements, “knowing is half the battle!” If you don’t have a trip planned to London before March 9, 2014, visit the exhibit’s website to join the debate, explore the toys, and read visitor comments.

Photo: O.M. Hausser German Toy Soldier Set, c. 1936 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Oc-toy-berfest

LehmannMonkey

In addition to being synonymous with beer and bratwurst, did you know that Germany used to be synonymous with toys too? Germany monopolized the global toy market until World War I. The Lehmann Company was part of the German powerhouse. Founded by Ernst Paul Lehmann in 1881 in Brandenburg, the company produced small, tin toys with strong spring mechanisms that powered fun movements.

As opposed to iron, tin toys were lighter and less expensive. I mean, who wants to play with a dumbbell? Tin also allowed for colorful, lithographed designs that appealed to both boys and girls. We know our climbing monkey is a Lehmann toy because of the maker’s mark on his red hat, and EPL (Ernst Paul Lehmann) 385 and his name (Tom) on the other side. We’re guessing they labeled his hat so he wouldn’t lose it. Tom climbs the string with a gentle pull; relax the string and he’ll climb down. While our Tom doesn’t get much exercise, check out his counterpart’s moves.

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