Small Talk

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!

At the Crossroads of Big and Small

At the Crossroads of Big and Small

A little museum of big things made little? It may sound like a riddle, but that’s exactly what visitors to the World’s Largest Collection of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World’s Largest Things will see. The Jeep-turned-museum showcases America’s roadside wonders like the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, World’s Largest Yo-Yo (one of our favorites), and many, many more cleverly replicated in miniature for a one-stop viewing experience.

The mobile museum was created by artist Erika Nelson, who travels the country both exhibiting her small landmarks, while also scoping out large ones for miniaturization. Even while it’s on the road, a portion of the quirky museum (which, by the way, has its own theme song) is permanently stationed in even quirkier Lucas, Kansas, the “Grassroots Art Capital” of the state. It is probably not a coincidence that Lucas is also home to the world’s largest souvenir travel plate!
Photo: Erika Nelson, The World’s Largest Collection of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World’s Largest Things.

Pedal Up to Nebraska

Pedal Up to Nebraska

Pedal to the Metal: Pedal Cars and American Car Culture is racing to the finish line; the exhibit closes August 28, 2016. If you hustle to T/m before then, you can see several cars from the collection of the Speedway Motors Museum of American Speed. If not, you may be able to catch the 1937 Ford Deluxe, 1930 Steelcraft Chrysler, 1953 Torpedo, 1950 Mercedes Benz 190SL, 1965 Ford Mustang, 1950 Tri-ang Flying Squad Police Cruiser, 1960 Deluxe “Flat Face” Fire Truck, or 1967 Skipper Run-a-Bout on view in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The 135,000 square foot museum was founded in 1992 by “Speedy” Bill and Joyce Smith to preserve, interpret, and display items significant in racing and automotive history. Pedal cars are just the starting line of their extensive collection of vehicles (early dirt- and board-track racecars, midget cars, Indy cars, street rods, and restored classics). And for those of you who fondly remember Soap Box Derby, they’ve got a great collection of those too!
Photo: Antigone Jackson, Speedway Motors Museum of American Speed.

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