Small Talk / Toys

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’!

A Primo Premium Dollhouse

Dunham Cocoanut Dollhouse

Remember digging through cereal boxes for the prize inside, or sending in proofs of purchase in exchange for a special premium toy? If so, you will not be surprised to learn that toys and advertising have been intertwined for a very long time. Since the 19th century, companies like Kellogg’s, Coca-Cola, and Texaco have teamed up with toy companies to promote their goods.

One of the earliest examples of premium toys is this 1892 dollhouse made by Dunham Manufacturing Company. Don’t let the fancy lithographed Victorian interior fool you though: this dollhouse was actually a packing crate for Dunham’s brand of shredded coconut confections. Complete with four rooms that include a lithographed fish tank and a moose head, the house and its cardboard furniture were likely available to children who collected and redeemed enough Dunham’s box tops. Just think of all the kids in the 1890s asking their mom if they could eat coconut for every meal!

To Protect and Serve

play cops and robbers

With the Great Depression of the 1930s came a new era of children’s play. Children invented their own games and imaginative worlds, which were sometimes based on radio, film, cartoons or comic book characters. Young boys began to play cops and robbers using toys like these from T/m’s collection.

The owner of the policeman’s billy club recalled going to the movies and reasoned that receiving the gift may have been related to a popular movie at the time. Although a billy club may seem like an odd gift to give a small boy today, the owner reassured T/m staff that, “we were all good policemen.” He also noted that the shrill noise of the whistle would stop any bad guys in their tracks!

Steeped in History: A Tea Party Souvenir

tea party souvenir

You may remember the Emery Bird Thayer Department Store (E.B.T.) from our posts about the Josephine Bird Dollhouse here on Small Talk. The store on Petticoat Lane in downtown Kansas City promised that, “this great store will be here every day, striving to please you with reliable merchandise combined with excellent service.” The store was stocked by buyers who traveled throughout Europe and Asia searching for goods to sell.

Just like many old department stores, E.B.T. had an elaborate tearoom housed in the large mezzanine. In the tearoom the store hosted tea parties for little girls and their dolls. At the end of the party, each girl took home a souvenir cup and saucer. The department store’s tearoom closed shortly after the end of World War II, but not before handing out this 1914 tea party souvenir set made by Royal Bayreuth in Bavaria.  Today, there are several places you can still take your doll for tea and Royal Bayreuth is still making china after more than 200 years. We’ll have more insight into another Royal Bayreuth tea set lined up for Small Talk in the coming months; stick around!

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