Small Talk Tag: Toy

Crazy for Kewpies

Kewpie Doll

With their large pointy heads, cherubic bodies, and mischievous facial expressions, Kewpies have become a doll icon over the last century. These potbellied babies were dreamed up by illustrator Rose O’Neil in 1909 and first appeared as a comic for Ladies’ Home Journal. Creative and entrepreneurial, O’Neil developed Kewpies into a line of bisque dolls with the help of German toy company Waltershausen. The dolls were such a success that Kewpies began appearing in advertising campaigns and on products, and they even promoted the women’s suffrage movement.

O’Neil’s Walnut Shade, Missouri, estate now houses the Bonniebrook Gallery, Museum, and Homestead. Visitors can view some of her earliest commercial illustrations, artwork, and hundreds of antique Kewpies. Although Kewpie dolls may not be actively campaigning for social justice or selling JELL-O anymore, they do continue to make the occasional appearance. Japanese “Kewpie fusion” toys are a new spin on the old doll, and rival schools should definitely watch out for this rough-and-tumble football mascot!
Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

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.

What’s Cookin’?

Eagle Toy Stove

Hubley Manufacturing Company was founded by John E. Hubley, a bank teller who began making toys for his children in the basement of his Philadelphia home. The company was ranked among the most productive cast-iron toy manufacturers in the United States in the early 20th century. Some Hubley toys featured the brand names of American companies: Ford cars and trucks, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Maytag washers, and this Eagle stove.

The Hubley line of Eagle toy stoves offered more sizes and types of ranges than any other line on the market at the time. T/m’s version has an ornate backpiece, warming oven, detachable shelf, six burners, and a key to help lift the burner covers. Let’s get cookin’!

A Primo Premium Dollhouse

Dunham Cocoanut Dollhouse

Remember digging through cereal boxes for the prize inside, or sending in proofs of purchase in exchange for a special premium toy? If so, you will not be surprised to learn that toys and advertising have been intertwined for a very long time. Since the 19th century, companies like Kellogg’s, Coca-Cola, and Texaco have teamed up with toy companies to promote their goods.

One of the earliest examples of premium toys is this 1892 dollhouse made by Dunham Manufacturing Company. Don’t let the fancy lithographed Victorian interior fool you though: this dollhouse was actually a packing crate for Dunham’s brand of shredded coconut confections. Complete with four rooms that include a lithographed fish tank and a moose head, the house and its cardboard furniture were likely available to children who collected and redeemed enough Dunham’s box tops. Just think of all the kids in the 1890s asking their mom if they could eat coconut for every meal!

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.

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