Small Talk

Entertaining Toys of the Eighties

Entertaining Toys of the Eighties

Now Gotta Have It: Iconic Toys of Past Decades moon walks into the 1980s. How many children’s shows from the decade can you name? How about popular 1980s children’s toys? See a trend here?! The answers are the same! Hasbro, Mattel, and Playmates capitalized on the success of popular cartoons or vice versa, drove toy sales by bankrolling new shows. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles introduced us to a new language—“cowabunga and “totally tubular”—while Masters of the Universe gave us the power. Rainbow Brite infused the world with color and Care Bears wore their emotions on their stomachs.

It wasn’t the first time, and it is probably safe to say that it won’t be the last time, a toy took over the nation’s attention; Cabbage Patch Kids were all the rage for Christmas 1983. So much so that a series of violent customer outbursts at stores across the United States came to be called the “Cabbage Patch riots.” To avoid the situation, some retailers opted to sell the dolls in a lottery system, while one individual opted to fly to London to get his daughter the coveted doll.

Nettie’s Dollhouse Quilts

Nettie’s Dollhouse Quilts

Hands-on experience is one of the best ways to learn something new, and it’s all the better when it’s fun! For children, particularly girls in the nineteenth century like Nettie Wells, sewing was an important skill to learn in preparation for running a household later in life. Sadly, Nettie had to put her homemaking skills to work at an early age when her mother became ill.

Examples of Nettie’s sewing can be found among the accessories in her dollhouse including two doll-sized crazy quilts. The larger quilt showcases her aptitude creating different stitches among a variety of materials including silk, velvet, and cotton. Just like its , the smaller crazy quilt includes tiny embroidered figures, although you might have to use your imagination to figure out what they are. Can you spot a teacup, a key, and a face?

Super Fun Toys of The Seventies

Super Fun Toys of The Seventies

Tired of cleaning up those little toys that came with your kids’ cheeseburger meal (if you didn’t manage to step on them first)? Or how about that crick in your neck from sitting too close to the television playing video games? Or all that plastic packaging you have to get through before you can play with your new toy? You have the 1970s to thank for all of these things.

Although McDonald’s didn’t originate the concept (that credit goes to Burger Chef’s Fun meal in 1973) the Happy Meal was first test marketed in Kansas City in October 1977. By 1979, the meals were nationwide with toys themed to match a feature film; the first was Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Before that, in 1975, three lines and a moving dot became the first commercially successful arcade video game machine; you guessed it, PONG! Following in the footsteps of the first commercial home video game console, 1972’s Magnavox Odyssey, Home PONG for Atari was quickly born and we never looked back. And for that plastic packaging? You’ll just have to come check out Gotta Have It: Iconic Toys of Past Decades to hear that story.

A Miniature Stairway to Heaven

A Miniature Stairway to Heaven

Unfortunately, there’s no Stairway to Heaven being played on this fine-scale miniature Les Paul (or maybe that’s fortunately, depending on what camp you fall in!). A favorite of visitors to The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, this solid body electric guitar with white trim, brass tuning pegs and finger markings, and six strings is the work of fine-scale miniature artist Ken Manning.

Manning, who played the guitar, mouth organ, and accordion, combined his love for woodworking and music into a retirement “profession;” he made his first miniature at the age of 61. An IGMA Fellow, Manning was an internationally renowned craftsman of historic and contemporary fine-scale miniature stringed instruments: a variety of guitars, violins, banjos, mandolins, cellos, harps, lutes, double bass, ukulele, Japanese biwa, potbelly mandolin, and an Italian mandora. Think it’s hard enough to string a full-size guitar? Manning could string a miniature guitar in 1½ to 2 hours. An entire piece took him 40-50 hours to create, including a custom case.

Nettie’s Dollhouse Classroom

Nettie’s Dollhouse Classroom

When young Nettie Wells packed up her dollhouse for safe keeping, she probably never imagined it would end up in a museum someday. The contents include some really fun accessories that give us a look into how she played with the small house and her doll Gracie in the late nineteenth century.

One of our favorite accessories kept inside is this make-believe class attendance roster indicating Nettie played school with her doll Gracie. The cover of the little booklet reads, “Mrs. N. M. Wells” in perfect teacherly cursive. Inside, the names of Nettie’s pretend pupils are listed. Gracie of course had perfect attendance, which is pretty predictable when your mother is also your teacher!

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