Small Talk Tag: Toy

A Portland Toylandia

Portland Toy Museum

It’s not hard to get a sense of the voracious collecting bug Frank Kidd has. Ever since purchasing his first pedal car as an adult in the 1960s, he’s lived under the motto “buy or die” when it comes to collecting antique toys. Kidd’s collection grew so large that he eventually closed his auto parts business and converted the space to display it.

Visitors to this unassuming industrial building-turned-museum in Portland, Oregon will find 20,000 toys on view (a fraction of Kidd’s collection!). A major portion of his toys are cast iron banks. During the machine age, cast iron banks were a great way to use mechanical technology for entertainment while also teaching kids the value of saving money. Unfortunately, many cast iron banks reflected nineteenth-century values on race as well and reinforced negative stereotypes. Kidd’s collection provides a glimpse into the changing world at the turn of the last century, and offers a stark comparison with the ever-diversifying toys of today.
Photo: Kidd’s Toy Museum.

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.

Cartoons Turned into Paper Dolls

Jackie Ormes

T/m’s newest exhibit, Stereotypes to Civil Rights: Black Paper Dolls in America, features work from the first African American female cartoonist: Jackie Ormes. Ormes created playful, often politically charged strips for readers of 15 African American newspapers across the country, including the Chicago Defender and Pittsburgh Courier, from the 1930s to the 1950s. There would not be another nationally syndicated black female cartoonist until the 1990s

Smart, classy, glamorous, bold, and rebellious, Torchy Brown was one of Ormes’ most beloved characters. Torchy first appeared as a Mississippi teen finding fame and fortune as a Cotton Club singer and dancer in the 1937-1938 comic strip Torchy Brown in “Dixie to Harlem.” Torchy reappeared in 1950’s Torchy in Heartbeats as a beautiful, independent woman encountering adventure in a pursuit for her true love.

In addition to creating the first upscale black doll to have a whole line of clothes, Patty Jo from her comic Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger, Ormes turned Torchy into a paper doll (bet you can’t guess where you might see it now through August 21, 2016?!). Torchy was so curvaceous that it was rumored servicemen used the paper dolls as pin-ups!
Photo: Torchy Brown Heartbeats, February 3, 1951, Comic Section, Pittsburgh Courier. Courtesy of Nancy Goldstein, www.jackieormes.com.

Nintendo Nostalgia

Nintendo Exhibit

When you hear the name Nintendo, you probably think of the iconic, gray video game console, a pair of mustached plumbers, and maybe even that snickering dog from Duck Hunt (what a jerk!). Surprisingly, Nintendo’s games go much further back: 125 years back with a deck of playing cards! Nintendo’s products included an electronic “Love Tester” and arcade games before they made it big with their home game console, the Nintendo Entertainment System, in 1985.

Nintendo’s games, characters, and even the consoles themselves continue to resonate with new generations of players. The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games and Ritsumeikan University in Japan have produced an exhibit celebrating the Nintendo Entertainment System’s 30 year anniversary. Visitors can view some of the early NES design plans, watch an interview with a Nintendo hardware designer, and play several games like Super Mario Bros. 1, 2, and 3, and Mario Kart Arcade GP. The best part? You won’t have to blow on any of the cartridges in order to play the games!
Photo: Courtesy of The Strong®, Rochester, New York.

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.

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