Monday, June 5, 2017

Late 19th Century Toys - and a Giveaway


The books and TV shows which most often draw my attention portray settlers and people in transition. Characters who have more love than money, and where essential necessities came first. Toys made with whatever was on hand, such as a doll made with leftover fabric scraps, or a pair of stilts made with wood salvaged from the woodpile.



Two boys playing on stilts, ca. 1890-1916. Source: Glenbow Archives NC-39-293


In some of those stories, children with toys were usually from affluent families where children had time on their hands and more often than not, were spoiled. In my own childhood, we were raised with the ridiculous notion that your bank account dictated your character. I could write a sermon on that point of view, but I'd rather talk about toys.

In 1890, trains were crossing North America with rapid regularity and towns with amenities were springing up every 10 miles or so along the railroad tracks. Although the land was still being settled, a settler could find almost anything in a nearby town, including toys, and what wasn't readily available could be ordered by catalog.

Because I've already mentioned dolls, I wanted to show you an assortment of dolls ca. 1890s with a photograph held at the Glenbow Archives in Calgary, Alberta. There is no mention of what type of dolls, nor their age, but to my untrained eye, some of them look like ones you'd buy in a store due to their porcelain/bisque heads and hands.



Group of Dolls, ca. 1890s. Source: Glenbow Archives NC-22-43


Doll houses have been fashionable for centuries with females of all ages, with its size and construction dependent on materials and ability to create and furnish. A quick search on the internet shows doll houses in many museums built for noble and royal women with stunningly exquisite pieces. 

The following photograph is from the McCord Museum with the following information: "Special toys represent a microcosm of daily life. This doll's house, photographed for Captain Howard around 1873-74, is divided into four main rooms: the kitchen, dining room, parlour and bedroom or play room. The open front has four windows decorated with lace-like curtains, similar to those in the music room seen earlier. There are miniature mirrors on the sideboard and dresser, metal kitchen implements hanging on the wall and centrally suspended lights. Doll's houses give children ideas about how the domestic interior should be arranged and decorated, but are also owned as adult amusements."



The Ladies' Home Journal included detailed instructions on making a doll house in the article, A Little Girl's Play-House. The article is too long to paste here, but it's available as part of a free eBook on GooglePlay. After downloading, find page 7 of the December 1887 issue. 

With thoughts of little girls in mind, I searched for one of my favorite childhood toys, the tea set, and chose this next modern photo of a tea set dated 1890-1920 which was gifted to the McCord Museum by Mrs. Raymond Caron.




I love everything about this tea set, from its dainty design to its hexagon cups and saucers. 

The boy is this next photo has an assortment of books and toys, including what looks like lithographed blocks. I thought perhaps he'd be a good representative of a family with a little extra money to spend on toys until I realized he was the son of Charles Selby Haultain, Assistant-Surgeon for the North-West Mounted Police depot in Regina, Saskatchewan. As such, his father would have been higher on the pay scale than the average man, whether lawman, settler, or somewhere in between.


Robert Mitchell "Robin" Haultain with his blocks and other toys, Regina, Saskatchewan, ca. 1891-1894. Source: Glenbow Archives ND-37-3

My search for outdoor fun toys led me to look for photographs of kids and wagons which were difficult to make at home due to the metal parts. I thought perhaps I'd find metal wheels and a wood body, like the adult-size versions, but it seems the ones I found were all-metal construction except possibly for the handle. This particular one has the information that it was probably photographed in Montana.



Herbert and Phoebe Kimball hauling wood in their wagon, ca. 1890-1905. Source: Glenbow Archives NC-39-301

Of course, when you digest the content of the above image, you see that the children are doing chores with their wagon. If that's a doll on the wood pile beside the little girl though, perhaps she was able to give it a ride as they went along, or afterward. 


Portrait of Arthur Patterson blowing bubbles, Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, ca. 1897-1900. Source: Glenbow Archives NA-5733-10


I was surprised to find an image of a boy blowing bubbles dated ca. 1897-1900, probably because I associate bubble-blowing with dish-washing liquid and that doesn't strike me as something you'd find at the turn of the century. Location-wise, the Maple Creek area is across the border from Fort Benton, Montana which makes me wonder if they were blowing bubbles down there at that time, too. Would his bubble-making pipe be store-bought? 

Which brings us to a toy I always wanted, but never received as a child . . . the regal rocking horse. Like a doll house, expense depended on size, materials, and workmanship, although it required a skilled craftsman to carve it.




There are many images of children and their rocking horses, most of them studio images like the glass negative shown here. I chose this one from the McCord Museum however, because it includes this tidbit of photographic history:
"If you look behind Thomas Crathern's feet, you can see a pole. In Miss Pominville's picture, did you notice a curtain draped behind her feet? That was to hide the base of the posing stand, against which both of them are leaning, to help them stay still for the photograph. Master Thomas must have had a harder time of it than Miss Pominville, because he is sitting on a rocking horse, which is made to move. The photographer has jammed one of the feet of the posing stand under the rocker on the far side, so Thomas has a hope of staying still." Source : In the Eye of the Camera [Web tour], by Nora Hague, McCord Museum


For the last image we have a rocking horse suitable for younger children. Although we don't use these any longer due to the safety aspect, I thought this type of rocking horse was more of a vintage style, rather than an antique. 

Lawrence and Watson Dunbar, west of Fort Macleod, Alberta, ca. 1893. Source: Glenbow Archives NA-2033-3

The images in this post are representative of items a person might find in a general store, mercantile, and emporium in the Old West. If not physically in the store, they could be ordered through a catalog.

In my novella, Love in Store, my hero has set up a toy corner in his Emporium where a person might find any or all of the items on this page, and then he has to defend his position of why he's selling them.

Other posts here on HHH that show more images pertaining to my Love in Store novella are:
General Stores, Mercantiles & Emporiums
Early Typists at Work



#Giveaway - If you'd like a chance to win a copy of The Secret Admirer Romance Collection which contains nine novellas including, Love in Store, leave a comment on this post before midnight, Sunday June 11, 2017. 



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Anita Mae Draper writes her historical romances under the western skies of the Saskatchewan prairie where her love of research and genealogy yield fascinating truths that layer her stories with rich historical details. Her Christian faith is reflected in her stories of forgiveness and redemption as her characters struggle to find their way to that place we call home. Anita loves to correspond with her readers through any of the social media links found at
Readers can enrich their reading experience by checking out Anita's Pinterest boards for a visual idea of her stories at www.pinterest.com/anitamaedraper.


30 comments:

  1. The collection sounds great, thanks for the chance :)
    jslbrown2009 at aol dot com

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    1. You're very welcome, Lisa. Thanks for stopping by. :)

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  2. Great post about historical toys from the late 19th century. I enjoyed reading and seeing all the pictures of the different toys. Thank you for sharing, Anita.
    I do not need to be included in the giveaway, as I have a copy of Secret Admirers Romance Collection.

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    1. Thanks, Marilyn, and you're welcome. Good to know you received your copy of The Secret Admirer Romance Collection. I appreciate you taking the time to visit. :)

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  3. I think I might have been able to handle those stilts!
    I still have my rocking horse. Very 1950s. Thanks Anita! loved the tea set too. I wish there was something for comparison for true size. Do you think it's a tea set for dolls or for a little girl? It almost looks too small to put more than a drop of tea in.

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    1. Deb, I used to have stilts like that and nope, not for me. I even totter in 1" heels.

      I assumed the tea set was for dolls. I collect mini tea sets and they have the same look. An antique one is quite out of my price range, but I love the dainty look of these sets.

      Thanks for stopping by for tea. :)

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  4. I already own a copy of this novella series.
    I had a tiny tea set but not so prettily made. I had a rocking goose like the first picture of the rocking horse. I just remember it was big! I think a friend of my parents magpie it for my birthday! I also remember the other style rocking animals as being in our Church nursery when I was about 4 or 5 yrs old. Older members of our Church were the carpenters.

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    1. Paula, I'm delighted that you shared your recollections. Your rocking goose reminds me of the colorful iron animal rockers in playgrounds these days. I first saw them when I was close to 40 so was way too big to enjoy the ride, but I had my eye on the yellow duck.

      Now that you've mentioned it, I remember seeing one of the toddler rockers in a church nursery too. It would have been a great way to keep children quite during the sermon.

      Thank you for sharing. :)

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  5. I love the photographs you found and shared of children and their toys! I think the one with the bubble is particularly fascinating because I assumed taking a photograph back then required a long exposure. It's a great shot!

    colorvibrant at gmail dot com

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    1. Heidi, I wondered about that too. There are actually 3 photos in that series, and the bubbles are roughly the same size and shape, so they could possibly be artificial, but they look so real.

      About the exposure time... this is a studio portrait, but since Kodak released the Brownie camera in February 1900, exposure times by then had shortened considerably.

      Heidi, you raise some excellent and valid points. Thanks for sharing with us. :)

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  6. I would love to read this novella collection!

    I still have a few cherished teddy bears from my childhood=)

    pattymh2000(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. Teddy bears are precious. My mom still reminds me of my black and white panda bear named Dicky, although I have no idea where he got his name. I was 9 when he disappeared. In my defense however, I had a very rough childhood and falling asleep snuggling with Dicky while rubbing my nose in his inner ear provided comfort I didn't seem to find elsewhere.

      Thanks for visiting Patty, you're entered. :)

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  7. I loved your post! I still have a few dolls from my childhood. One of them went to the hospital with me when I was five years old. We wrote matching gowns and wgen I woke up in recovery, she was laying on a table beside me with a bandaid on her throat. mauback55 at gmail dot com

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    1. Awh, Melanie, that's sweet. Well, not the part about her having a bandaid on her throat because ouch, but that the hospital staff knew how important it was for your doll to be a reflection of you. Love that. And it makes for a great story scene, too. :)

      Thanks for sharing today, Melanie. I really enjoy your visits.

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  8. What a delightful post! I enjoyed the information and photographs you shared, Anita. I would love to read this wonderful novella collection and appreciate the giveaway opportunity.

    texaggs2000 at gmail dot com

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  9. Thank you, Britney. I have you entered, so we'll have to see about the winning part. Always a pleasure to see you. :)

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  10. I enjoyed your post so much. Loved the pictures, could read about and look at pictures like these every day. I would love to win.

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    1. Awh, thanks, Shirley. I know it was hard living back then, but yes, I enjoy looking at them as well.
      Thanks for stopping by and entering. :)

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  11. I loved this post! The vintage photos are wonderful. I love these romance collections from Barbour! Thank you for the chance to win a copy.

    psalm103and138 at gmail dot com

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    1. Hey Caryl, nice to see you here. Your name is in the hat - or should I use a wagon this time? :)

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  12. This collection of stories sounds wonderful,would love the chance to win and read it.

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    1. You are surely entered, Lisa. Thanks for stopping by. And thank you. :)

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  13. Looks like a lot of the same toys I played with in the mid-20th century! Thanks for the lovely post. This collection has such a beautiful cover! Blessings!

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    1. Hey Carrie, you should see the image I posted of me in 1960 (yes, shhhh) playing with a tea set:
      http://www.anitamaedraper.com/woven-under-western-skies/19th-century-toys-giveaway

      And yes, I'm the one with the ringlets. *preen

      Thanks for stopping by. :)

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  14. Love the tea set. Thank you for the chance to win such a beautiful collection. Blessings

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    1. You're very welcome, Lucy. So glad you dropped by to enter. :)

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  15. I absolutely loved this. I had an aunt and uncle who gave me a tea set many years at Christmas. Some were plastic but many were "China" and I have a few pieces left. I never had a real playhouse but my Daddy picked out a tin schoolhouse with teacher, pupils, desks, and a blackboard. I still have the tin schoolhouse. Thanks for sharing and bringing back memories!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. I love tin toys, Connie. The schoolhouse sounds like a delightful keepsake, and kudos to you for preserving it. :)

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  16. Love your list, Anita. Some of those toys endured time and social styles. My dad made me a pair of stilts on which I became quite proficient, and my mother gave me a miniature china tea set. Great memories - far beyond the 1800s!

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    1. Yes indeed, Davalyn. Toys like the old stilts were quick to put together and their use made for much laughter. I think that's missing a lot these days. Kids play, but not with the carefree exuberance of the days when a summer evening brought wonderful sounds of family life, slamming screen doors included. :)

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