Small Talk / Toys

Batter Up!

Jackie Robinson

Here in Kansas City, we are proud of our connection to the rich history of African-American Baseball and our local Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. With our 2015 World Series Champion Kansas City Royals, we stand on April 15 to honor Jackie Robinson. Robinson played second base for the Negro League’s Kansas City Monarchs before being scouted by the Brooklyn Dodgers to make his major league debut. When Robinson stepped on the field on April 15, 1947, he broke the color barrier in baseball as the first African-American player in the 20th century to play in the major leagues.

Robinson’s fame inspired many toys, including this all composition doll from Allied Grand Manufacturing Company. Based in Brooklyn, New York, Allied specialized in budget-friendly dolls and scored their first homerun with this 13-inch-tall hometown hero. The Robinson doll came with a baseball bat imprinted with Robinson’s signature, a Dodgers uniform, and a baseball cap emblazoned with the letter “B.”

Annie Horatia’s Dollhouse Details

Annie Horatia Jones

While toy furniture could be purchased, little girls like Annie Horatia Jones also enjoyed adding some DIY charm to their dollhouses with a touch of imagination and a pinch of sewing skills. Annie’s finesse with a needle is undeniable in the geometric rugs she made for her rooms. And we love the decoupage paper on the red nursery walls!

Although there are no doors from the hallway to the rooms, that didn’t stop Annie from getting a baby walker, a bed (affectionately coined the “broken heart bed” by T/m staff), a sewing basket, and a water cistern into her house’s rooms.

Annie Horatia’s Dollhouse History

Annie Horatia Jones

In the 19th century, affluent parents commissioned dollhouses for their daughters (I mean, they couldn’t exactly go to the closest Toys ‘R Us). This circa 1860 dollhouse was the centerpiece of the privileged childhood of Annie Horatia Jones (1876-1969). Annie was the daughter of Sir Horace Jones, a notable 19th century English architect who served as architect and surveyor for the city of London (he is responsible for the design of the iconic Tower Bridge).

Think Annie’s dollhouse resembles a piece of furniture in your home? If you said a cabinet or bookcase, you would be correct! Part of this stately cabinet-style dollhouse originally belonged to Annie’s mother, Lady Ann Jones. When it was Annie’s turn to learn adult roles through play, an additional wing and wheeled base were added to the dollhouse (see the line between old and new to the left of the center of the house). Stay tuned to learn how Annie added her own personal touches.

A New Frontier for Toymaking

Yoshiya Flying Saucer

The mid-twentieth century saw technological advances in everything from nuclear power to televisions and kitchen appliances. Toys too came with all kinds of new features that allowed imaginations to run wild. One of the biggest influences on toys of the 50s and 60s was the addition of a built-in battery power supply. Indeed, this was the dawn of “batteries not included!”

Post-World War II Japan produced some of the earliest examples of battery operated toys on the world market. With an internal power source, toys achieved new capabilities previously unavailable for wind-up toys including extended movement, sounds, and lights. This circa 1960 Yoshiya “Flying Saucer with Space Pilot” is equipped with bump and go action, space noise, and a rotating color wheel—all of which, of course, are very important for space travel!

A New Frontier for Fun

Vintage Space Toys

In the 1930s, science fiction captivated the American imagination with the fantastical outer space adventures of Buck Rodgers and Flash Gordon… and we’ve been hooked ever since. After World War II, the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union turned the public’s attention to the very real possibility of traveling to the moon and beyond. So, not surprisingly, toymakers both at home and abroad capitalized on the “final frontier” of imaginative play.

Space toys during the mid-twentieth century came in a variety of forms. Some were more realistic like molded plastic NASA playsets, while others seemed to be ripped from the pages of a sci-fi comic book like flying saucers and outer space robots. The period also witnessed a shift from domestic toy production to imported Japanese-made toys. For example, T/m’s tin “Flying Saucer with Space Pilot” was made by Japanese firm Yoshiya, but bears the name of its American importer, Cragston. We’ll explore some of the intergalactic features of this toy soon, so set your phasors to be stunned!

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