Small Talk / Toys

What’s Olds is New Again

Curved Dash Oldsmobile

Because we don’t really see vehicles like the Curved-Dash Oldsmobile on the road anymore, it’s hard to believe that the full-size version of this toy was the most popular car in the beginning of the 20th century. Built between 1901 and 1907, the sled-like “horseless carriage” was the first mass-produced, gasoline engine automobile in the world. The wide-spread popularity of the new technology influenced toy companies like ACME Toy Works to emulate the Oldsmobile’s details, right down to the tiller steering and turn crank to start the engine!

Toys, after all, are a sign of the times in which they were made. What child wouldn’t want to drive their own newfangled automobile in 1903? The best-selling truck in 2013 was Ford’s F-Series, so it is no coincidence that parents can find small versions and large versions at the toy store!

Pretty Little Angel Sulphide

Angel Sulfide Marble

Highly-coveted sulphide marbles get their name from the figure inside that looks like it’s made out of sulfur. Largely manufactured in German cottage industries from the mid-19th to the early 20th century, the tiny figures are actually made of porcelain clay. Animal sulphides are the most common type. People, numbers, or angels, like the one pictured here from the Larry and Cathy Svacina Collection, are harder to find.

Because antique sulphides were handmade, it’s not uncommon to find flawed or off-centered figures. Others have trapped air bubbles or pontil marks. While some collectors may seek out these imperfect gems, others believe they are, as these heavenly hosts say, “no good.”

Josephine’s Repurposed Play

Pincushion Chair and Guitar from Josephine Bird's Dollhouse

Josephine Bird decorated her dollhouse with the finest, traditional ormolu furnishings alongside objects she re-appropriated from everyday life. Dolls visiting the residents of the house may have rested their feet on some particularly cushy chairs. That’s because the chairs were originally meant for pins, similar to the tomato design that is believed to have originated in the 15th century, but gained popularity, along with other shapes (fans, dolls, shoes, fruits, and vegetables), in the Victorian era!

The guitar that the dolls jammed on probably didn’t make the greatest music. The guitar can be pulled apart and was likely a candy case or Christmas ornament sold at her father’s Emery, Bird, Thayer Department Store. Josephine’s repurposing is like the Victorian version of using those plastic pizza box saver thingies as tables for your Barbies or Calico Critters!

Josephine’s Dollhouse Treasure Trove

Josephine Bird Dollhouse

This stately Victorian bookcase-style dollhouse stood silent on the third floor of a grand Kansas City home, forgotten for a generation. When Mrs. Joseph Hall first unpacked the family heirloom, she discovered dozens of antique candy boxes containing the dollhouse’s original, intricate furnishings. Good thing the candy was gone… there’s nothing worse than finding last year’s Halloween candy melted to the pillowcase you used as a bag. Yuck!

The elaborate dollhouse belonged to Josephine Bird, the mother-in-law of Mrs. Hall. Josephine was born in 1889 to Joseph Taylor Bird Sr., an investor in the Emery, Bird, Thayer Department Store. The department store, located here in Kansas City, was once heralded as “The Southwest’s Greatest Merchandisers.” Josephine’s dollhouse is filled with items repurposed from the store and gathered on her world travels. Stay tuned as we rediscover all the treasures Mrs. Hall found!

Quizzes Can Be Fun

Duncan Yo-Yo

If someone asked us if we wanted to play with some quizzes, our answer would most likely be no way (unless they were about our favorite sports team or gave us insight on our latest crush)! But, we could be passing up the chance to play with yo-yos.

Although the yo-yo’s origin is unknown, the most popular theory has the toy originating in 1000 B.C. China. Being an ancient toy, the yo-yo has had a lot of different names: quizzes, bandalores, chucki. Americans know it by it’s Filipino name, which means “come back,” thanks to Pedro Flores who began producing yo-yos when he immigrated to the United States in 1928. Two years later, he sold the company to Donald F. Duncan who produced T/m’s two-colored yo-yo.

Today, Duncan is still making yo-yos for novices and experts alike. The National Yo-Yo Museum in Chico, California hosted the National Yo-Yo Contest on October 5, 2013.  You definitely won’t see us there anytime soon… we’re still trying to nail the sleeper trick.

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