Although I sometimes roll my eyes at the new commemorative “holidays” that get added to the calendar, I’m actually delighted to see that November 4, 2017 has been declared the first annual National Easy-Bake Oven Day. I can’t promise that I’ll be sending greeting cards to my friends and family to honor the occasion, but it’s good to know that one of the classic toys in the National Toy Hall of Fame is drawing renewed attention—naturally by way of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Mothers get their day in May. Fathers are feted in June. And what about sisters and brothers? Their turn comes on April 10—Siblings Day. Siblings Day hasn’t earned recognition as a federal holiday (yet), but since 1998, governors have proclaimed Siblings Day in 49 states. From experience and observation, I know that sibling relationships can take any number of different configurations. And that made me think about the famous siblings that come readily to mind from the world of toys, dolls, and games.
I’ve always enjoyed working on jigsaw puzzles. I find the challenge of assembling a picture from the mass of jumbled pieces satisfying. Maybe it’s my bent for organization that wants to bring order to chaos and see the task through to a tidy completion. But I faced a different challenge recently when my fellow curator Nic Ricketts and I went to Maine to pack up a collection of 7,500 jigsaw puzzles for The Strong museum.
What’s your favorite toy? I had the chance to talk about some of my favorites from the National Toy Hall of Fame with Gerri Willis on The Willis Report not long ago. The Fox Business network brought me to New York City as part of the lead-in to holiday toy shopping and to remind their viewers about classic toys.
When I think of the 4th of July (what my calendar more formally calls Independence Day), I conjure up images of parades featuring plenty of red, white, and blue crepe paper. I smell the aroma of burgers on the grill. And I envision fireworks exploding into colorful sprays of light across an inky nighttime sky. But I don’t often think of toys and other playful products for the holiday. Still, it didn’t take much time for my investigation of The Strong’s extensive collections to turn up an interesting array of patriotic items to suit 4th of July celebrations over the years.
Any state fair, carnival, or amusement park needs to have a Ferris wheel. Ferris wheels rank up there with carousels, roller coasters, and cotton candy as essential elements of those summer destinations. Despite their familiarity today, the Ferris wheel first impressed riders and onlookers as a dazzling new mechanical wonder more than 100 years ago.
Roll the dice! Deal the cards! It’s time to welcome you to Game Time!, the newest exhibit at the National Museum of Play at The Strong. Game Time! explores the stories behind the non-electronic games that have played an important part in American life and culture over the past three centuries.