Small Talk

Little Doll on the Prairie

Little Doll on the Prairie

While dolls come in many different shapes and sizes, some of the oldest dolls are made of fabric or rags. Cuddly and comforting rag dolls were easily and cheaply made with scraps out of the family sewing basket. Even Laura Ingalls Wilder carried her rag doll Charlotte on her family’s adventures across the American West.

When the women of the First Presbyterian Church of Bucyrus, Ohio decided to start a church fundraising campaign in the 1880s, they turned to rag dolls. The women began making and selling what are now known as Presbyterian rag dolls. These dolls had muslin bodies and beautiful hand-painted faces and each wore an ankle-length dress and bonnet. Generations of church women made these dolls through World War I and again from the 1950s to the 1980s. Luckily, some of the original rag dolls have survived the years by being passed down through the generations. Try your hand at making your own rag doll to create a lovable family heirloom!

Can You Solve It?

Can You Solve It?

There are a lot of totally rad toys that are synonymous with the material world of the 1980s, but perhaps none more iconic than the colorful and ever-puzzling Rubik’s Cube. You might be surprised to learn that Ernő Rubik actually invented the puzzle, which he called the Magic Cube, in 1974 out of wood blocks and paper clips. A few design tweaks and a toy patent produced the re-named Rubik’s Cube that debuted internationally in 1980. Since then, approximately one in seven people have played with a Rubik’s Cube!

A new exhibit at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, New Jersey takes the toy a step further. Beyond Rubik’s Cube is the first museum exhibit devoted to this iconic toy. An interactive gallery allows visitors to learn cube-solving skills, see the bejeweled Masterpiece Cube, hear a Cube Symphony, create a Rubik’s Cube mosaic, and more. Does the thought of solving the infamous Rubik’s Cube immediately give you a headache? Fear not: the exhibit also includes a specialized robot that is programmed to solve the puzzle in mere seconds- totally rad indeed! The exhibit is on view now through November 30, 2014.

Sailing the Miniature Seas

Sailing the Miniature Seas

In 1750, HMY Royal Caroline set sail for the first time. As one of the most extravagant English royal yachts adorned with gleaming sails and an impressive figurehead, she spent her days transporting the royal family. She was so well-built that she wasn’t retired until 1820. Nearly two centuries later in 2002, the Royal Caroline was brought to life again by miniature artist Lloyd McCaffery.

McCaffery was only 12 years old when he stumbled across a picture of a model ship in a book and found his passion. His decades-long career has produced miniature wooden masterpieces like the Royal Caroline. Due to this ship’s tiny scale, one inch in the miniature equals 31 feet on the full-scale vessel, it just barely measures 4.5 inches. It is carved from holly wood, boxwood, and lemonwood. The five figures and crown of the figurehead are less than a quarter inch wide. Seven crew members and three passengers are sailing on this miniature voyage. While 18th century sailors did not have pleasant lives, we’d be happy to brush up on our sailing lingo and hop aboard McCaffery’s Royal Caroline for a day!

Match Box Dolls Make a Comeback

Match Box Dolls Make a Comeback

What happens when you mix a Beanie Baby and a Polly Pocket? Well, you might end up with a match box doll!  Popular in the 1970s, these bean-filled dolls are small enough to fit inside of a match box, which doubles as the doll’s bed. Though they didn’t gain much popularity in North America, match box dolls were all the rage in other countries around the world as an inexpensive alternative to the popular toys offered in the United States at the time.

Today, match box dolls are making a comeback in North and South America. After being unable to find a doll similar to the ones she played with growing up in Cyprus and Greece, entrepreneur and mother of three Elizabeth Cross created Stork Babies. Each of these modern match box dolls come with a personality all their own: a Spanish gal named Carisa, for example, encourages everyone to “enjoy the world and all the beautiful things it has to offer, especially ice cream!” Cross’s daughters (ages 6, 10 and 11) act as the company’s Vice Presidents of Design, insuring that the dolls are on-trend and of course maintain maximum cuteness.

Playful Competition

Playful Competition

It’s that time of year again! The National Toy Hall of Fame has announced the finalists for the 2014 induction. And it looks as though we might be having a case of déjà vu… this year’s two inductees could be American Girl dolls, bubbles, Fisher Price Little People, Hess toy trucks, little green army men, My Little Pony, Operation Skill Game, paper airplane, pots and pans, Rubik’s Cube, Slip ‘N Slide, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Since the finalists were announced on September 22, almost 7,350 public votes have been cast. Make sure your opinion is included! Learn more about the finalists and vote on the Hall of Fame’s website. Check back there or here on Small Talk after November 6 to see if the bubbles float to the top or the pots and pans make a big bang!

Photo: Courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York.

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