Small Talk

The Girl Behind the Bonnet

The Girl Behind the Bonnet

This nine-piece Sunbonnet Sue Tea Set is one of the most colorfully illustrated children’s tea set in our collection. Who exactly is Sunbonnet Sue? With a face shrouded in mystery (ok, well, a sunbonnet anyway), Sunbonnet Sue was a popular illustration in the late 19th and early 20th century. She appeared on children’s school primers, china, and became a popular quilt block design.

The tea set here was made by Royal Bayreuth in Bavaria around 1905. The Sunbonnet Sue images were applied to the porcelain using a transfer technique and a secondary gold leaf pattern was added on top. Royal Bayreuth still continues to make porcelain today, and many of their antique pieces are highly collectible.

Fame Game

Fame Game

After carefully reviewing hundreds of public nominations, a team of curators, scholars, and historians at The Strong National Museum of Play have announced the 2015 finalists for induction into the National Toy Hall of Fame. Some perennial favorites like the scooter, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and American Girl Dolls are back in the running after not making last year’s cut. New contenders Playmobil, coloring books, Jenga, puppets, tops, Twister, Wiffle Ball, Battleship, and Super Soakers will also take aim for a spot in the newly-redesigned Toy Hall of Fame galleries.

And so America, it’s up to you to do your civic duty and vote for your favorite toy now through November 4. The winners will be announced Thursday, November 5. Not feeling so nostalgic about this year’s dozen finalists? Nominate your favorite toy to be included in the 2016 running!
Photo courtesy of The Strong®, Rochester, New York.

Crazy for Kewpies

Crazy for Kewpies

With their large pointy heads, cherubic bodies, and mischievous facial expressions, Kewpies have become a doll icon over the last century. These potbellied babies were dreamed up by illustrator Rose O’Neil in 1909 and first appeared as a comic for Ladies’ Home Journal. Creative and entrepreneurial, O’Neil developed Kewpies into a line of bisque dolls with the help of German toy company Waltershausen. The dolls were such a success that Kewpies began appearing in advertising campaigns and on products, and they even promoted the women’s suffrage movement.

O’Neil’s Walnut Shade, Missouri, estate now houses the Bonniebrook Gallery, Museum, and Homestead. Visitors can view some of her earliest commercial illustrations, artwork, and hundreds of antique Kewpies. Although Kewpie dolls may not be actively campaigning for social justice or selling JELL-O anymore, they do continue to make the occasional appearance. Japanese “Kewpie fusion” toys are a new spin on the old doll, and rival schools should definitely watch out for this rough-and-tumble football mascot!
Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

All Hail the Marble King

All Hail the Marble King

It’s probably no surprise that most of the toys we play with today aren’t made in America anymore. What might be surprising to hear is that some U.S. toy companies are still going strong! In Paden City, West Virginia, Marble King has been manufacturing marbles since 1949. Founder Barry Pink had made a living selling marbles for over 30 years when he decided to jump into the manufacturing business during the heyday of the marble-playing craze.

While “knuckling down” may not have the same appeal for today’s kids as it did in the 20th century, the secret to Marble King’s success might be their ability to diversify. It turns out marbles have many different uses that aren’t all fun and games. For instance, marbles can be used to clean out industrial pipes. And you know that rattling noise inside a spray paint can? Yep, it’s a marble—likely made by Marble King.
Photo: Courtesy of Marble King.

A Bitty Baby House

A Bitty Baby House

Contrary to what the name might lead you to believe, this 1:12 scale miniature isn’t actually meant to represent a “house for babies.” The term baby house refers to 17th and 18th-century dollhouses, typically in the Netherlands and England. This early type of dollhouse was usually a wooden cabinet on legs, with compartments decorated and furnished like a miniature estate.

This Baby House was constructed by artist Gilbert Mena. It features turned legs and finials and two functional doors decorated with one-point perspective marquetry scenes. The rooms within the baby house were made by artist Nell Corkin, who had the task of miniaturizing furnishings that would have been already tiny in full-scale! If you look closely, you’ll find diminutive delftware, two neatly made beds, and even a dollhouse pet resting on a pillow.

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