Small Talk Tag: Toy

Look, I Can Swim!


This boxy bathing beauty doesn’t look much like your typical doll—she’s equipped with a key-wound, spring-loaded mechanism that allows her to actually do the breaststroke! Patented in 1878 by E. Martin, Undine, as she was named in the patent, probably wasn’t meant for children. Fanciful mechanical toys such as Undine were likely too expensive for child’s play and were instead used as a form of entertainment for adults during parties. While we don’t think she crossed the English Channel or won any medals for swimming in the 1896 Olympics, this Victorian mechanized swimming doll is certainly a noteworthy gal.

Want to see Undine race Missy Franklin or Michael Phelps? We do too, but unfortunately she hasn’t been wound up in quite some time. We did, however, find some modern takes on the swimming doll — no winding required — she takes AAA batteries and has a built-in sensor!

She Looks Just Like You


What little girl wouldn’t want a doll made to look just like her? American Girl Dolls can be customized to match their owner’s hair, eyes, skin tone, and even hobby (gymnastics anyone?!). While ordering dolls online may be a 21st century idea, custom-made dolls are a trend straight out of the Victorian Era.

19th century doll artist Izannah Walker began creating hand-painted cloth dolls in the 1840s. By 1873, she patented her process for doll construction, which covered molded fabric with paste. Walker’s dolls were an unbreakable counterpart to the popular china or bisque dolls of the time period. As you can imagine, these dolls were often well loved, so many of them haven’t survived. We’re lucky to not only have Miss Mary in our collection, but also a photograph of her and Mary Estelle Newell, the doll’s original owner—and in matching outfits no less!

Big Changes are A’Comin


We’d like to introduce you to The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures! Starting this January, the Toy and Miniature Museum of Kansas City will transform into The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures.

What do you mean by “transform?” Well, we’ll be pausing museum operations on January 6, 2014 for a while so we can fix our building’s temperature and humidity issues, and create new exhibits. When we’re all done, we’ll be better able to share one of the United States’s largest collections of antique toys on public display and the world’s largest collection of fine-scale miniatures with you.

In the meantime, check back here often to learn about our collection and other toy and miniature collections around the world, see what inspires us from thought-provoking projects to invigorating individuals, and learn more about T/m’s past and future, including some radical photos from the 1980s.

Watch our renovation project unfold on our Facebook page and pin your favorite museum objects from our Pinterest boards.

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