Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on June 13, 1976 · Page 76
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 76

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 13, 1976
Page 76
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Page 76 article text (OCR)

Colonial Toys Started With the Hands of Youths By Thelma Humphrey The historic period known as the colonial days was a wooden age. The forests were the citadel for spruce, hemlock, chestnut, pine, birch and oak trees that were the . storehouses for the toy industry of the colonial boy and his Barlow jack-knife. The girl shared in the abundance of the word, since her favorite toy, the wooden doll, was also a product of the forests. But it was the knife that played an all important role for carving and whittling the toys and games of colonial days. Although the knife is an ancient instrument, steel blades were first made in Sheffield, England, in the late 15th century. The Barlow jack-knife, a strong clasp k n i f e , was introduced in Manchester, England, in the 17th century. It was one of the most important metal items exported to the colonies for two centuries. The colonial boy and his jack-knife became another link in the long chain of creativity of the knife. There is little history written about the Barlow jack-knife, but the National Museum of History and Technology, located in Washington, D.C., has a fine collection of the knives that were used in early America. Long winter days and nights were spent in carving and whittling toys and playthings. The boy carved his whistles from the wood of the chestnut and willow trees; his popguns were made from the branches of the elder tree. John Pierpont, a New England preacher, describes his own boyhood and what his knife meant to him in a poem that tells the story of the colonial boy and his knife: "Hi* pocket-knife to the young whiltlfr brings A growing knowledge of material things/ Projectiles, music, and the sculptor's art/ His chestnut whistle, and his shingle dart/ His elder popgun with its hickory rod/ Its sharp explosion and rebounding tend I His corn-stalk fiddle and the deeper lone/ That murmurs from his pumpkin-leaf trombone/ Conspire to teach the boy. To these succeed/ His bow, his arrow of a feathered reed/ His windmill raised the passing breeze to win/ His water wheel that will turn upon a pin/ Thus by his genius and his jack-knife driven/ Ere long he will solve you any problem given."/ (Conrtesty Berkshire Traveller Press; The colonial boy's carving and whittling was the beginning "alphabet of mechanics" of American industrial history. Such distinguished Americans as Daniel Webster felt that the j a c k - k n i f e was a direct forerunner of the cot- tor, gin and other inventions that hastened the American Industrial Revolution in which the manufacture of toys played an important role. H'l'.-l. There were many homemade toys that the boy and girl could share and make with each other. Due to strict religious practices and beliefs the Puritans did not allow their children to play with toys unless they had some Biblical meaning. A popular toy that was made by many Puritan children was Noah's Ark. This toy was also associated with the animals on the farm and was an excellent competitive activity between the boy and girl. . .two animals for each carver. But it was the boy and girl of Dutch and German settlers in New York and Pennsylvania who enjoyed a variety of toys as well as the gaiety of fairs, festivals, and c e l e b r a t i o n s . These settle'rs brought their well established customs of their native countries with them when they crossed the Atlantic to the shores of America. Another toy the colonial boy and girl could carve together, especially for younger children, was the hobby horse later replaced with the rocking horse. Larger than any previous toys made by the boy and girl, the rocking horse was a little more complicated to make than the whistles and pop-guns. This toy required the help of parents or craftsmen. Many rocking horses imported from England served as models for the homemade toy. By 1795. the rocking horse was one of the most popular toys made and sold by colonial craftsmen "so young children could learn to ride a horse and · to provide them with wholesome exercise." As the colonies began to grow industrially and to increase educational opportunities for the boy and girl, self-made toys were supplemented by imported ones as well as those made by local craftsmen with whom the boy could serve an apprenticeship. Colonial children did not have the luxury of playing with metal toys manufactured in America. During the colonial period Nuremburg, Germany, was the center of the toy industry. In 1760, the toy soldier, which was made of tin was marketed by the Nuremberg toy makers. There is evidence that the colonial merchants imported this toy. The Library of W i n t e r t u r Museum, Wintertur, Dela. has a catalogue that lists the toy soldiers that were imported by the colonial merchants from Germany. With his sharp Barlow jack-knife the boy could also begin his future career as a craftsman by learning to carve the delicate features of the toy soldier and his regimental uniform. The imported toy served as a model and i n s p i r a t i o n for the young carver and helped him to develop his own talents. The colonial boy and his toy soldier share the beginning of a new revolution in the toy industry. Daniel Foley states in Toys Through Dick Schackne, in 'American Folk Toys,'shows you how YOU can make your own. the Ages (Chilton House, 1962) "if any toy can be said to mirror an episode of history and a highly dramatic one at that, surely the tin soldier has few peers." In the late 18th century, the historic episodes that influenced the creation and popular acceptance of the toy soldier were the Prussian Wars, our own Revolutionary War, and the French Revolution. Whether hand carved or imported, whether dressed in simple uniform or in elegant regimental attire, the toy soldier became more a plaything for the colonial boy. Even in early America it was an object of art for collectors of all ages, and continues to be a prized possession for collectors in the 20th century. Even though it took two centuries after the landing of the Pilgrims for the toy industry to be established in America, one of the first companies to manufacture metal toys was the J E Stevens Co. of Cromwell, Conn. In 1845, a few- metal toys were marketed with hardware. But it was not until 1870 that metal toys such as cannon, penny banks and horses-on-wheels were m a n u f a c t u r e d and made available to boys and girls. What self-made toys and the toy soldier were to the colonial boy. the wooden doll was to the colonial girl: a creative toy--a plaything that was an expression of herself. The wooden doll becomes another segment in the long history of dolls that date from a n c i e n t c i v i l i z a - tions. In primitive cultures dolls were used as objects to show devotion to the gods. Dolls are a universal toy that expresses the unique individuality of people and nations. Like other toys the development of the doll follows the trends and styles of industry and fashion as well as the changing life styles of boys and girls. The dolls of the colonial girl ranged f r o m crudely made corn husk and corn cob dolls to elegant fashion dolls. The great majority of these dolls were wooden, some of which were dressed in the fashion of the period; others were clothed in simple attire of bonnets and apron-styled dresses. Like other toys, the girl (and the boy) could carve the wooden doll with a sharp Barlow j a c k - k n i f e . H a n d c a r v e d d o l l s , k n o w n a s "Penny Woodens" originated in the Black Forest of G e r m a n y in the 15th century. These dolls and those carved in America during the colonial period were jointed and fastened with wooden pegs. They had no detailed features and were lacking in construction and facial animation that is characteristic of more artistic dolls. In the 18th century, the large fashion dolls of Europe, which were dressed in the style of royalty, played an important role for the women of the colonies. These dolls became mannequins that were sent to the colonies to inform the women about the current styles worn in London and Paris. In History of Toys by Antonia Fraser (Delacrote Press,"l966) there is a citation of an advertisement that appeared in the New England Weekly Journal. July 11, 1733, stating that "at a dressmaker's shop in Boston could be seen a mannequin in the latest fashion with everything pertaining to a woman's attire." For the colonial girl. Queen Anne dolls were the most popular fashion dolls that were brought to the c^- lonies from England. They were dressed in the styles worn during the period of the reigning Queen. Many Queer. Anne dolls can be found in private collections of dolls and in doll museums. The story written about a wooden- doll that was brought to America from Eng. land during the reign of King James has made the history of dolls come alive. Here is a brief resume of that story: Letitin I'enn Steps Out Was Written by Carolyn S. Bailey in the book, Toys and If'histles. (Viking Press, 1937). Letitia Penn was brought to the colonies by William Penn when he returned to Pennsylvania in 1699 with his wife Hannah and his daughter Tishe. Letitia was a large doll, 20 inches in height, and was dressed in the style of the Court of King James. She was a very important member of the Penn family. Letitia Penn was given to a little Miss Rankin of Old Philadelphia- where she lived for 200 years. She was then put in a glass cage and was taken to her new home in Connecticut. The big event in her l i f e was when she traveled to New York City and was exhibited in her glass case to large crowds in a department store. It is believed that Letitia Penn is living happily ever after in a private collection of dolls. During the Bicentennial Year where can boys and girls see colonial and early American tovs. The Abby Aldrich R o c k e f e l l e r Folk Art Museum in Williamsburg. Va., has a fine collection of toys that is exhibited during the Christmas season. The Perelman Antique Toy Museum in historic Philadelphia has an exhibition of early American metal toys. The Essex Institute, Salem, Mass.. has a Noah's Ark preserved from colonial days. There are doll museums t h r o u g h o u t t h e U n i t e d S t a t e s among which is the Eliza Cruce Hall Doll Museum in A r d m o r e . Okla., which has two Queen Anne wooden dolls and three wooden "Court Dolls" that were owned by Marie Antoinette. The Raggedy Ann Doll Museum. Flemington, N.J., and the Museum of the City of New York have educational and cultural collections of dolls. W i n t e r t u r Museum, mentioned above, has a permanent collection of toys, books, and c a t a - logues from' colonial and early American times. How many of you boys and girls would like to know what it was like to make your toys like colonial kids had to do? Dick Schnacke, Mountain Craft Shop, Proctor, Wetzel County, has written a book just for you. This book, American Folk Toys and llmr io Make Them (Putnam. 19731 can show you how to make 85 American folk toys with easy-to-follow "How To" directions and drawings with plenty of information on the materials needed for each toy. Boys can make a w h i r l i g i g , a stick horse, spinning tops, jumpine jacks, and pop-guns just like colonial boys made. Girls can make a do!! out of clothespins, or corn husks. There are good directions on how : make doll furniture. Get busy, boys and g i r l s , and make 1976 come a l i v e w i t h 177H toys! June 13. 1976. Sunday (;a:ri;---M'::'

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