Small Talk Tag: Toy

The Silly Side of the Sixties

Toys of the 1960s

If you thought the 1950s in Gotta Have It! Toys from Past Decades was exciting, then hold your horses because here comes toys of the 1960s. The world of toys exploded in this decade. “Playing house” significantly improved with the Easy-Bake Oven and extensive line of Suzy Homemaker appliances. As the nation escalated military involvement in Vietnam and sent men into space, toys like G.I. Joe suited up and Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon explored new galactic frontiers.

And while you have the 1960s to thank for every tiny LEGO piece you have cursed after stepping on (not to mention the thousands of dollars you’ve expended on fancy sets), the decade was also responsible for answering all of your pressing teenage-angst-filled questions. Around since the 1940s, the not so magic Magic 8 Ball flourished in the decade with its floating 20-sided die inside a plastic ball filled with blue liquid. Why is it shaped like a billiard ball? Reply hazy. Try again later.

Nettie’s Dollhouse Dolls

dollhouse doll

The contents stored inside the Nettie Wells dollhouse give us a special look at the playtime of a Victorian girl. Among them is a small bisque porcelain doll, who is unfortunately missing a few of her appendages. We learned from Nettie’s writings kept within the house that this doll’s name was Gracie and that Nettie considered herself Gracie’s mama.

It’s still unclear how Gracie may have suffered some bodily losses (we’ve ruled out the possibility of an older brother!), but we can tell from evidence on her muslin underwear that someone tried to repair her with glue. Gracie even had a smaller doll of her own. Nettie and Gracie must have had many imaginative adventures (or misadventures) together, judging from her many accessories, which we’ll peek into next time.

The Nifty Toys of the Fifties

1950s toys

If you build it, they will come. And what they wanted (yup, that’s you, our visitors), were the toys they played with as a kid. While seeing the toys you played with behind glass may make you feel old, it is pretty awesome to see old friends again. We promise you’ll pick right up where you left off. Gotta Have It! Iconic Toys from Past Decades begins with 1950s toys.

Saturday mornings in front of the television set changed advertising, allowing companies to demonstrate products and directly reach their target market: kids. And the discovery of polypropylene made plastic toys inexpensive and more interactive. Barbie came to town with Tom Corbett, Space Cadet. They were joined by failed-manufacturing-ventures-turned-toys in Silly Putty and Play-Doh. And the decade wouldn’t be complete without Matchbox cars, Erector Sets, and dolls that talked and wet, Chatty Cathy and Betsy Wetsy.

LACMA’s Miniature Metropolis

Metropolis II

We’re obviously huge fans of kinetic sculptures that incorporate toys, hence T/m’s two-story Toytisserie. Although it’s not in a museum of toys or miniatures, artist Chris Burden’s large installation Metropolis II has been amazing visitors to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) since 2011. Metropolis II is a fury of 1,100 matchbox cars whirring by at a scale speed of 230 miles per hour on a complex system of tracks around a futuristic miniature skyline.

Witnessing the sculpture in person in the LACMA galleries evokes feelings of wonder and awe, but with a tinge of anxiety, similar to driving on a real-life multi-lane freeway in heavy traffic (after all, toys are teaching tools for life, you know!). It took Burden and his studio team over four years of research and design to get all the components exactly right—even so, a team of attendants is on hand in case a car derails or jams up the track. The sculpture runs intermittently for four hours every day at LACMA.
Photo: Chris Burden, Metropolis II, 2010, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, courtesy of the Nicolas Berggruen Charitable Foundation, © Chris Burden Estate

A Rare Bird

pedal car

Americans have been completely enamored of the automobile since the first ones rolled off the assembly lines and onto the streets. Both adults and children were captivated by the “horseless buggy,” as evidenced by this 1920s toy pedal car. Although wheeled mobility toys existed before this pedal car, Schmelzer’s Red Bird definitely came with all the modern stylishness of its motorized, full-scale counterparts.

Schmelzer’s Red Bird was manufactured by the Sidway Topliff Company of Washington, Pennsylvania for a department store here in Kansas City named Schmelzer’s Arms Co. Some of the features on this bad boy include yellow pinstripes, a winged hood ornament, and a hand brake that operates a stop sign in the rear above the license plate. The Red Bird is on view with other classic pedal cars in our temporary exhibit Pedal to the Metal: Pedal Cars and American Car Culture through August 28, 2016.

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