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A Playful Look at History

At Play: Dolls, Toys, and Trains, November 25, 2016 – January 31, 2017

An exhibition that recalled the joys of childhood playtime, but revealed many themes of history  (manufacturing, materials, education, immigration, business, gender bias, and concern for the environment) through a display of model cars, tin toys, G.I. Joe, baby dolls, chemistry sets, musical instruments, construction toys, and more. A running model train and a table of Lincoln Logs added to the fun!

American Flyer Railroad Set, c1930s. In 1907, the Edmonds-Metzel Manufacturing Company began making tinplate wind-up trains. The toy line was so popular that the company changed its name to the American Flyer Manufacturing Company in 1910.

Mabel Spitzer’s Original Teddy Bear, c1904. The teddy bear name derived from a news report of President Theodore Roosevelt participating in a bear hunt in Louisiana in 1902, where he refused to shoot a bear captured for his sport. An editorial cartoonist captured the story. The drawing inspired an enduring childhood toy.

 

Albert Schoenhut (1849-1912) immigrated to America from Germany in 1866 at the age of 17. Six years later, he began the A. Schoenhut Company, Manufacturer of Toys and Novelties. In time, Schoenhut would earn the name “King of Toy Makers.” His success relied on the German tradition of craftsmanship and quality plus his own innovation.

In 1911, Schoenhut introduced the All Wood Perfection Art Dolls, a landmark in toymaking history. An innovative design created durable dolls with jointed limbs, allowing children to pose them in natural positions. The HRHS Etter Collection has two of each toy because sisters Mary and Ruth always received the same gifts. They also took very good care of their toys, even pinning identification labels to them.