Small Talk Tag: Inspiration

All Hail the Marble King

Marble King Marbles

It’s probably no surprise that most of the toys we play with today aren’t made in America anymore. What might be surprising to hear is that some U.S. toy companies are still going strong! In Paden City, West Virginia, Marble King has been manufacturing marbles since 1949. Founder Barry Pink had made a living selling marbles for over 30 years when he decided to jump into the manufacturing business during the heyday of the marble-playing craze.

While “knuckling down” may not have the same appeal for today’s kids as it did in the 20th century, the secret to Marble King’s success might be their ability to diversify. It turns out marbles have many different uses that aren’t all fun and games. For instance, marbles can be used to clean out industrial pipes. And you know that rattling noise inside a spray paint can? Yep, it’s a marble—likely made by Marble King.
Photo: Courtesy of Marble King.

77 Years Young

Veach's Toy Station

It is hard to visit The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures and not take a trip down memory lane. What is more nostalgic than toys? An old toy store on a Midwest Main Street! Veach’s Toy Station opened in 1938 in Richmond, Indiana as a general five-and-dime that sold toys during the holiday season. Although it is now strictly devoted to toys, locals insist that Veach’s hasn’t changed much in its 77 years.

The store is now being run by the third generation of the Veach family. The 16,000-square-foot store stocks American made toys from small companies. And if that wasn’t enough, the second floor is a “wonderland” of all things electric train. Road trip anyone?
Photo courtesy of Veach’s Toy Station.

Batteries Not Included

classic wooden toys

Think of all the toys you’ve played with that came with the caveat, “batteries not included.” Bummer, right? The sheer disappointment that ensued after opening a new gift only to realize its inability to function without batteries isn’t easily forgotten!

While battery-operated and other electronic toys continue to captivate kids (and adults), a trend to revive analog or “slow toys” has emerged. Combine that with recent consumer safety issues from toys made abroad and the result is Americans are once again smitten with the wooden toys of yesteryear. One of the perennial favorites, Lincoln Logs, has returned 80% of production back to the U.S. after being made in China for nearly 60 years. Pennsylvania-based Channel Craft has built an entire catalog of toys that your grandparents or even great-grandparents likely played with. Can the simple joys of tops, train whistles, boomerangs, and yo-yos divert our attention from Angry Birds or Nintendo 3DS? Maybe for a bit. One thing’s certain: they’ll still be around when electronic toys’ batteries run out of juice!
Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Let’s Go Fly a Kite

kite exhibition

For centuries, kites have remained one of the most universal outdoor toys. A symbol of childhood and freedom, the playthings can be found everywhere from suburban America to Brazilian favelas to the villages of Japan. A new exhibit at the V&A Museum of Childhood prominently displays a colorful kaleidoscope of kites from Kabul, Afghanistan.

Kites from Kabul is a partnership between the museum and British charity Turquoise Mountain. Established in 2006, Turquoise Mountain’s Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture teaches young Afghans traditional arts and crafts like calligraphy, ceramics, and jewelry-making. Videos and photographs of the children who made the kites accompany the installation. A product of the intersection of art and play, the kite exhibition aims to foster greater understanding of Afghan culture.
Photo: Andrew Quilty/Oculi, V&A Museum of Childhood.


Raggedy Ann Turns 100

raggedy ann

With her button eyes, triangle nose, candy-striped pantaloons and orange yarn hair, Raggedy Ann is one of the most recognizable dolls around. You might be surprised to learn that the raggedy redhead has gone through a only few updates in her 100 years as play icon. Ann’s 1915 patent shows her with very long thumbs, a teardrop-shaped nose, a puffy dress, and a floral bonnet with her namesake on a ribbon.

While much folklore surrounds her creation, we know that Raggedy Ann’s creator Johnny Gruelle created Raggedy Ann (and later Raggedy Andy) for the pages of children’s books. Set in his daughter Marcella’s nursery, Gruelle’s first book, The Raggedy Ann Stories, introduced the doll who embarked on a series of adventures: raiding the pantry, rescuing the family dog, and teaching tolerance to the other dolls in the nursery. You might say the secret to Raggedy Ann’s longevity lies in her softness—both literally and figuratively.

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