Small Talk / Toys

Crack the Code

Little Orphan Annie Secret Decoder Pin

Decades before Saturday morning cartoons or video games, kids and families would gather around the radio to listen to dramatically narrated stories, called serials. One of the popular serials of the 1930s followed the adventures of Orphan Annie and her dog Sandy. Even back then, no popular children’s program was without its share of branded merchandise and premium toys. The classic 1983 movie A Christmas Story depicted the main character Ralphie impatiently waiting to receive his Little Orphan Annie Secret Society decoder pin in the mail.

This 1938 edition of the Telematic Radio Orphan Annie Pin has two holes that reveal corresponding numbers and letters on a dial. The codes read during the end of the radio program could be deciphered by turning the dial to reveal the secret letter. Contrary to the disappointing Ovaltine message received by Ralphie in the movie, the actual codes gave a clue to what would happen in the next Radio Orphan Annie program. Visitors to the museum’s “Toys from the Attic: Stories of American Childhood” exhibit can view this pin along and decipher a message of their own (and we promise it’s not a crummy commercial)!

Reporting for Duty

g.i. joe action figures

In 1964, Hasbro, Inc. introduced G.I. Joe: America’s Movable Fighting Man. Reportedly, Hasbro designers borrowed guns and rifles from the National Guard and even asked generals for top-secret materials in order to get all the details right! The company originally created three prototypes of their fighting man: Rocky the marine, Skip the sailor (not to be confused with Barbie’s sister Skipper), and Ace the pilot. Later, they settled on the universal name of G.I. Joe. The G.I. stands for “Government Issue,” a generic term for U.S. soldiers.

Joe premiered with a version for each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces: Action Soldier, Action Sailor, Action Pilot, and Action Marine. A very lucky little boy once owned T/m’s 1964 Action Sailor #7600 and many of the uniforms, weapons, and equipment (check them all out on T/m’s website). All of the accessories were interchangeable, which may explain why our Joe is photographed in the last outfit his owner dressed him in: Action Marine uniform #7710.

Give a Hoot, Save Your Loot!

cast iron banks

While a piggy may be the most recognizable type of bank, cast iron banks in all shapes and figures were favored in the 19th century. Mechanical banks made the act of saving fun! These banks deposited coins by some sort of mechanical process… think humans or animals kicking, jumping, dancing, or doing handstands!

Mechanical banks were first manufactured in the late 1800s as the Industrial Revolution created a middle class that heralded the importance of earning and saving money combined with tinkerers of the Victorian Era experimenting with springs and windup devices. J.H. Bowen patented this toy “money box” in 1880. The financially savvy would place a coin on the branch. When a lever on the back of the bank is pressed, the owl’s head rotates and the coin gets deposited inside.

The Girl Behind the Bonnet

sunbonnet sue images

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.

What’s Cookin’?

Eagle Toy Stove

Hubley Manufacturing Company was founded by John E. Hubley, a bank teller who began making toys for his children in the basement of his Philadelphia home. The company was ranked among the most productive cast-iron toy manufacturers in the United States in the early 20th century. Some Hubley toys featured the brand names of American companies: Ford cars and trucks, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Maytag washers, and this Eagle stove.

The Hubley line of Eagle toy stoves offered more sizes and types of ranges than any other line on the market at the time. T/m’s version has an ornate backpiece, warming oven, detachable shelf, six burners, and a key to help lift the burner covers. Let’s get cookin’!

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