Small Talk Tag: Toy

Risking it All

Game of Risk

How many board games let you “travel the world” without leaving your dining room table? Well, there are a few… but not many of them let you conquer it! Originally called La Conquête du Monde (The Conquest of the World) by inventor and French film director Albert Lamorisse in 1957, the board game was brought to American audiences in 1959 as Risk!. The game of Risk’s iconic design consists of a rainbow of army game pieces and a board with fictitious territories (fun fact: real-life Afghanistan is not actually within the boundaries of the game board Afghanistan!).

Although it’s been through many modifications, the general game play has remained the same over the last 57 years. Players take turns rolling dice in order to defeat other players’ armies and effectively take over each territory on the board. Attackers in the game get three dice rolls, while defenders get only two. For very serious game players (we don’t recommend taking board games too seriously), the ability to strategize based on statistical analysis can provide a leg up, similar to playing chess.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Nettie’s Dollhouse

Nettie Wells Dollhouse

Many of the nineteenth century dollhouses in T/m’s collection reflect the wealth and grandeur of the Gilded Age. One of our most treasured dollhouses from this time, however, isn’t grand at all—in fact, it’s fairly humble!

The smartly built Nettie Wells dollhouse was made for a middle class Kansas City girl by her father in the 1880s. Although it only has a couple rooms, the small wooden house has beautiful details like scalloped trim, starburst motifs, and a hinged roof in the back of the house allowing for play and easy storage. Like the larger dollhouses in our collection, Nettie’s dollhouse was a teaching tool for her adult life. Sadly, Nettie had to assume that role at the age of just twelve when her mother fell ill. It was at that time that she packed up her dollhouse and its contents, never to be played with by anyone again. Nettie’s granddaughter donated the dollhouse and its contents to the museum in 1994, giving us a rare glimpse into Nettie’s childhood over a century ago.

Do You See What I See?

Optical Toys

If you’ve been following along, you’ve noticed by now how essential toys are to our culture’s story. And here it is again, a tale of how science influenced toys, which influenced the creation of moving pictures. In Optical Toys, part of the new permanent exhibits at The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, visitors explore the 1820s discovery of persistence of vision. Scientists theorized that the human eye remembers an image for a fraction of a second after it disappears. Thus, if two images are moving rapidly, the mind blends them into one image. Caught on yet?!

While this was only part of how the mind perceives movement, it set in motion (see what we did there?) the exploration of how the mind explores action and depth through optical toys. Think View Masters, stereoscopes, and kaleidoscopes. In the center of it all is a giant zoetrope showing one of our favorite toys taking flight. Through the use of fast moving picture strips viewed through a slot (think of it like a flip book), our now permanently grounded plane is able to soar the skies.

The Fashion Queen

Fashion Queen Barbie

While having three Barbies with three different hair color and styles is nice, wouldn’t one Barbie with the ability to have all three be even better? In 1963, Mattel introduced little girls to a Barbie doll that could change her hairstyle faster than a box of at-home hair dye. Fashion Queen Barbie sported a sculptured hairdo that could be covered with three wigs: a blond bubble cut, a brunette pageboy, and a red flip. Not only were wigs a popular fashion item in the early to mid-1960s, but the hairstyles included were all the rage too! Barbie began to sport the bouffant bubble cut in 1961 in response to the newest haircut of 1960s fashion icon, first lady Jacqueline Onasis Kennedy.

Although she arrived in a striped gold and white lamé swimsuit, this Barbie had an extensive wardrobe thanks to the mother of her owner, Donna. Donna’s mother was a home economics teacher and handmade a faux leopard coat and hat, a striped white and blue sundress, and a red dress that made Ken’s head turn!

A Grand Grocery

Christian Hacker

Where and how we buy our food has changed a lot over the last 150 years. Today’s big box stores, drive-through windows, vending machines, and mail-order meals are a far cry from the simple grocery shops of the nineteenth century. Although they didn’t have to choose between paper or plastic, children, particularly girls, in the Victorian era were expected to learn how to buy groceries in preparation for running a household of their own.

This ornately decorated toy grocery (accessorized here as a bakery shop) was made by the acclaimed Christian Hacker company of Nuremberg, Germany. Details like hand painted paneling, colorful lithographed wallpaper, and mirrored alcoves made this an expensive high-end toy. The blue banners that mark the contents of the store’s drawers are in English, indicating this toy was made for export to England or America. The drawers are demarcated with familiar goods like lentils, raisins, and limes, but also some stranger ones like chocolade and greuts, which seem to be mistranslated!

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