Small Talk / Toys

A Home for the Holidays

Custom made dollhouse

Forgoing the mall or busy big box stores to find the perfect Christmas gift can save your sanity during the holidays—especially if you’re crafty enough to make a custom, handmade gift. For three lucky Kansas City girls in 1971, a gift from their father was a dream come true: Thomas Baker constructed a dollhouse version of the family’s home in the city’s historic Ward Parkway neighborhood.

Baker’s replica of the 1928 Tudor Revival-style home aligns with the Victorian tradition of building personalized dollhouses. The exterior features painted brick and half-timber details along with the signature pointed gables. The inside of the dollhouse is a 1970s time capsule with bright (and rather groovy) wallpaper, and half walls to allow for easy access to the rooms. Above the hallway’s staircase on the second floor is a photograph of the three Baker sisters with a heart-melting note that reads, “To Janice, Jennifer and Julie, with love from your daddy.”

Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel

Spinning the dreidel

While our dreidel may not be made out of clay, it sure can spin! The dreidel is a four-sided spinning toy, and a game traditionally played during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Each side of our dreidel has a letter from the Hebrew alphabet written in black ink. When put together, they form the acronym NGHS: in translation, “a great miracle happened there.”

The rules of the game haven’t changed much since it originated in the Medieval period. Each player starts out with an equal number of game pieces, typically gelt. Players take turns spinning the dreidel and following the instructions for the side that lands up: do nothing, take the whole pot, take half the pieces in the pot, or place a game piece in the pot. This year, the first night of Hanukkah is December 6, so get your gelt (real or chocolate), ready!

Cheers! Prost!

german wedding toasting cup

From Oktoberfest celebrations to biergartens, Germans definitely know how to drink in style. This uniquely designed figural toasting cup is rooted in the rich cultural and folk traditions of the country. The origins of the design come from a folk tale in which the daughter of a nobleman fell in love with a commoner who was a goldsmith. The wealthy nobleman locked the goldsmith away, but eventually agreed to let him marry his daughter if he could make a chalice from which two people can drink at the same time without spilling one single drop. Of course the goldsmith created this hinged cup to make the feat possible, and the rest was history. How’s that for German engineering!

Although not a fine-scale miniature, this cup is much smaller than life-sized, and resides in the Josephine Bird Dollhouse along with many of Josephine’s European souvenirs and artistic furnishings. We like to imagine that two of Josephine’s dolls had a very fancy wedding ceremony and enacted the traditional “Who Runs the Nest” toast using this cup.

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.

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