Small Talk Tag: Toy

A Hall of Collections

toy collections

Within the museum’s collection, we have a lot of sub-collections. We also know a lot of people that have great collections on view in their homes or lovingly tucked away in boxes. And that’s when it dawned on us… why not make a hall in the newly-renovated museum dedicated to highlighting these collections?! Shortly after, the Hall of Collections was born. The hall features eight cases that will rotate annually to feature different beloved playthings.

What can you find in the hallway now? Toy dishes from England, France, and Germany dating to the late 19th century; Star Wars toys from the first three films, including Kenner’s original display standard for the first four action figures produced; Madame Alexander dolls, including the Dionne Quintuplets, Jane Wither, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis; toy school rooms from the United States, Germany, France, and Spain; boards games from the 1930s and 1940s; and, of course, we couldn’t leave out marbles!

Last, but not least, one case features the museum’s new Aaronel deRoy Gruber Disney Collection. Donated by the family of the internationally recognized artist, the collection features tin and mechanical toys that show the stages of Disney character development from The Marx Merry Makers Mouse Band to the modern Mickey Mouse.

Toys with Disabilities

Toy Like Me

Toys aren’t just fun, they’re also important teaching tools that help children make sense of the world around them. One of the oldest categories of toys, dolls, have helped kids learn important skills ranging from parenting to fashion. What else can dolls teach? A new movement is calling for more toys that promote self-esteem and inclusion.

For kids with physical disabilities, finding dolls and toys that look like them can be a challenge. Enter Toy Like Me, an organization that calls on big toy companies to produce toys that reflect children with disabilities. In just a year, Toy Like Me’s social media prowess has gained the attention of Makies, Playmobil, and LEGO who now make toys representing children who have physical disabilities, use wheelchairs, hearing aids, service animals, and more.
Photo: Toy Like Me.

Annie Horatia’s Dollhouse Dolls

London Dollhouse

While we at The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures own Annie Horatia Jones’s dollhouse, another important aspect of her childhood play lives in her city of origin at the London Metropolitan Archives. In 1886, Annie’s aunt Tamazine Billings gave her ten dolls for her dollhouse. Each doll represented a member of her family and household. Lucky for us, Aunt Tamazine sewed handwritten cloth labels with each family member’s name onto the doll that represented them.

As you would probably guess, the tallest doll is Annie’s father, Sir Horace Jones. However, the fact that the doll is a full two inches taller than the other dolls in the group says more about Victorian attitudes towards personal status within the family then Jones’s height. The Victorian father was the head of the household, thus the extra two inches. The dolls’ clothing is another interesting look back at 19th-century London!

Batter Up!

Jackie Robinson

Here in Kansas City, we are proud of our connection to the rich history of African-American Baseball and our local Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. With our 2015 World Series Champion Kansas City Royals, we stand on April 15 to honor Jackie Robinson. Robinson played second base for the Negro League’s Kansas City Monarchs before being scouted by the Brooklyn Dodgers to make his major league debut. When Robinson stepped on the field on April 15, 1947, he broke the color barrier in baseball as the first African-American player in the 20th century to play in the major leagues.

Robinson’s fame inspired many toys, including this all composition doll from Allied Grand Manufacturing Company. Based in Brooklyn, New York, Allied specialized in budget-friendly dolls and scored their first homerun with this 13-inch-tall hometown hero. The Robinson doll came with a baseball bat imprinted with Robinson’s signature, a Dodgers uniform, and a baseball cap emblazoned with the letter “B.”

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.

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