April 19, - September 30, Behold the child, by Nature's kindly law, Pleased with a rattle, tickled with a straw, Some livelier plaything gives his youth delight Alexander Pope, Essay On Man The word "toys" as we use it today, meaning exclusively playthings for children, was not in common use until the nineteenth century. Up to this time and even into the early s the word "toy" was used to describe anything from an adult bauble of little or no value, a trifle, to a costly miniature such as a piece of silver furniture made by the finest silversmith of the day.
Archaeological evidence suggests they were the same kinds of things today's children use in play. Centuries ago, Roman, Babylonian, Greek and Egyptian children had balls, rattles,dolls, toy animals, hoops, kites, marbles, stilts and tops. Some had dominoes and checkers. Estimated to be over 2, years old, it is shaped like a cow, with some stones inside.
Other toys from this same time period have been found: Many early toy-like objects - such as dolls and animals - were closely related to religious observances, so that it is sometimes difficult to tell the differences between these and the real toys of children's play. The oldest clearly identified toys were unearthed on the site of a year-old temple in Iran. These small, carved, limestone figures of a lion and a porcupine are mounted on wheeled platforms and pulled along by a string.
An even more remarkable early discovery is a crude doll with movable arms and legs, which kneads bread or grinds corn when a string is pulled. Before the arrival of the white man in America, Native children played with cornhusk dolls, small bows and arrows, and leather balls stuffed with feathers.
In the members of the Roanoke Expedition brought dolls in Elizabethan dress for the children they expected to find in the new country. The illustration on the left, a sketch from the work of expedition historian John White, shows a young native girl holding a doll in Elizabethan attire. A growing concern with education was felt, as it was realized that to be illiterate was a disadvantage in a world of expanding small business.
In Jan Amos Komensky, a Czech educator, wrote the first picture book for children. In the s a freer intellectual atmosphere was felt almost everywhere. Parents began to think in terms of their children's happiness as well as their moral well-being. This changed attitude was reflected in an expanding toy trade.
Toy shops began to appear. Benjamin Franklin wrote about a toy store in Boston in where, for a few coppers, he was able to buy a whistle. In , an advertisement in the Independent Gazetteer of Philadelphia listed dolls, drums and toy harps for sale. The doll depicted at the right is believed to be the oldest surviving doll in the United States.
The doll is named "Letitia Penn" after the daughter of William Penn, who brought the doll from Europe to Pennsylvania in The advent of the Industrial Revolution changed both the character of toys and the ability of workers to manufacture them in larger quantities. Native materials such as wood, straw and stone were rapidly displaced by iron and tinplate. Children were able to acquire manufactured toys at reasonable prices instead of having to make their own, a trend that accelerated as both factory production and distribution systems expanded.
Toys also became more and more sophisticated. By the end of the 19th century, construction toys were appearing. The early twentieth century saw great popularity for electric trains and other powered mechanical toys. Wars caused problems for toy producers. Production was hampered, and sometimes ceased altogether, as a result of shortages of both materials and labor.
World Wars I and II were particularly disruptive, with many toy manufacturers converting all production to war materials. Following World War II, toy production gradually changed. New toys, particularly space toys with plastic parts such as robots and rocket ships, became extremely popular. Most of these have been made in Japan, where electrical and battery-operated toys have gradually come to replace those animated by spring-driven motors.
The growth of television and video games has affected traditional pastimes. But the longing of some parents and children for more conventional toys has led to a resurgence of the wooden-toy and stuffed-toy industries. Today's toy industry remains a blend of the revolutionary and the traditional in many ways changed, but in other ways much the same as it was fifty or a hundred years ago. Ancient toys Excavations in ancient Egyptian ruins show that children enjoyed a variety of toys: Some wooden animals had moveable parts, like the jaws of tigers and crocodiles.
Greek and Roman children had balls and tops, too, and many little terracotta animals. Babies played with animal-shaped rattles - like fat little clay pigs.
Horses were favorites - including models of the famous Trojan Horse. Many toys of this period were designed to develop physical fitness. Some, like the hoop, were used by both children and adults. Kites were another ancient plaything enjoyed by young and old. The Chinese, who invented kites over 3, years ago, developed many variations and even used them in practical ways, such as sending signals to distant points. The Chinese or Japanese invented the whipped top at an early date.
These became so popular dozens of different types spread throughout Asia and the Middle East. Toys reflect society As long has toys have existed, they have reflected the cultures that produced them. Toys may reflect popular styles of clothing, activities, occupations, social standards and social conditions.
As an example, consider transportation toys: Boats, wheeled vehicles and,later, planes all mirror the modes and styles of transport of the period when they were produced. Dolls and other toys often reflect period clothing styles, as does the s era wind-up toy on the left.
Today's toys continue to reflect society: Barbie's outfits, GI Joe's tanks, the designs of toy cars, the advent of computer games, and the amazing variety of toy athletic items all say something about the world we live in. Parental concerns about the violent nature of some toys also have historic roots, as toy weapons and military equipment date back to pre-classical times, reflecting an era when the males of the family were expected to defend their homes and perform military service as required.
Toys in Europe Toys were often made at home of simple materials, or in the case of wealthier classes, in small quantities by skilled craftsmen. During the Middle Ages the large network of fairs that sprang up across Europe created a demand for goods to sell.
Many reflected the life around them - knights, horses, and figures of saints. One of the earliest and most long-lasting of these toys was the hobby-horse. Often it was a simple, carved stick, but many had elaborate trappings, and some in later years had rockers to provide the young riders with movement. German craftsmen, with their unlimited supply of material from the Black Forest, specialized in beautifully carved and painted toys.
Craftsmen's guilds established strict standards to ensure quality, and Nuremberg became a center for distribution of toys of all kinds. Gradually German toy manufacturers came to dominate the market. By the end of the 19th century large German factories were turning out dolls, mechanical toys, and construction sets, as well as the standard favorites from the past.
These toys were attractive and of high quality, in spite of being mass produced, and could be sold for a reasonable price.
They were so popular in the United States that before World War I, American merchants purchased one quarter of the factories' output.
At one time, they even forbade the celebration of Christmas. Early America was caught up in the Puritan work ethic, and play was thought to be nonproductive. Children were considered miniature adults, and since no laws existed to protect them, children were forced to work alongside adults.
With labor being scarce, young people's work was essential to the community's survival. Only on Sundays were children allowed to play with toys, and then only if the toy taught a moral lesson. These toys taught biblical history, such as the story of Noah's Ark. Many of these "Sunday" toys were quite elaborate, considering the austerity of the time period, such as this European set made in A Noah's Ark toy could carry up to one hundred pairs of animals as well as Noah and his family.
As a result of societal restrictions, children often created their own toys from left-over materials. Sometimes Indian traditions were adopted, such as the making of dolls from corncobs. In spite of the heavy work emphasis, 17th- and 18th- century children indulged in many simple games whenever there was an opportunity.
Boys especially managed to escape supervision in order to play cricket, football, tag and hide-and-seek, although all these games were forbidden at one time or another. The Southern colonies were considerably freer and more affluent.
With hired or slave labor to perform the harder work, there was more time and energy to spend on amusements, which often scandalized travelers from the North. Most of these Southern toys were imported from Europe. Despite New England strict environment, it was there that America's toy industry actually started. A multitude of home industries awakened in the North, drawing on the region's traditions of self-discipline and hard work.
Many farmers, shunning idleness even after a full day's work, whittled away in the evenings on a toy doll or animal. This hand-carved pull toy, a wooden horse, made in the Pennsylvania Dutch region about , might have been one such object.
Its tail is made of hemp and it is equipped with a typical Pennsylvania Dutch hex sign. But all in all, life in New England was austere: The arrival of later waves of immigrants eased religious strictures and play with toys became a more widely accepted practice. By the early s, toy stores were scattered throughout the American Colonies. Although American-made toys were sold here from the beginning, many toy stores were stocked with European toys, with most imports arriving from Germany. Initially, American merchants visited Europe to obtain toys for their shops, but by the end of the eighteenth century the seller was beginning to get into direct touch with his customers by means of catalogs and price lists.
It is one of the oldest toy stores in the United States and still serves as a barometer for the latest in toy designs. Cast iron toys The discovery of bog-iron in North America meant that this material could be used to cast toys.
Although the Revolutionary War brought a halt to toy production, by the standard of living was increasing as was the population. The iron foundries that had boomed during the war turned to the production of what were to become specially American forms of playthings: