The Magic and Mystery of KAR-MI

The Magic and Mystery of KAR-MI

The Strong’s vast and varied holdings include several hundred artifacts in the museum’s KAR-MI Collection: magician’s props, throwing knives, swords to swallow, theater posters, satiny banners and table covers, and a tattoo set (tattoo set? yes!). But we have few documents or records to explain this interesting mass of materials. So, of course, I have…

Martha Jenks Chase’s Simple Dolls for Simple Doll Play

Martha Jenks Chase’s Simple Dolls for Simple Doll Play

For more than 100 years, parents have criticized the talking, walking, crying, eating, and drinking dolls that appeared on the market. They have complained that mechanical dolls leave little to children’s imaginations. These complaints sound familiar today, what with the scores of dolls such as Baby Alive, Baby Check-Up, Baby Annabell, Baby Wet and Wiggles,…

Elizabeth II Is Such a Doll!

Elizabeth II Is Such a Doll!

In the past months, I have noticed the steady buzz of fanfare for Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.  A year’s worth of royal parades, pageants, parties, and pomp celebrates the six decades Queen Elizabeth has served as monarch. The people of the British realm certainly adore her. And to be honest, many Americans also follow news…

The Path to Toy Invention: Greg Hyman

The Path to Toy Invention: Greg Hyman

“Hey, Mom. Where do toys come from?” Perhaps kids don’t ruminate about the origin of toys as they might about a newborn sibling, but toys do come from somewhere. Toy inventors dream new ones up all the time, to the delight of kids everywhere. The National Museum of Play’s collections include toy prototypes and design…

The Dollhouse: A 2011 National Toy Hall of Fame Inductee

The Dollhouse: A 2011 National Toy Hall of Fame Inductee

In case you missed the media blitz, on November 10, the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong announced its 2011 inductees: the dollhouse, Hot Wheels, and the blanket. If you read my early November blog, you know that I thought the puppet, one of the 12 finalists for this year’s induction, was a…

Let’s Give Puppets a Big Hand

Let’s Give Puppets a Big Hand

I’ve had puppets on my mind lately since they’re among the 12 toy finalists for the 2011 induction into the National Toy Hall of Fame. Puppets have always played an important role in public entertainment and private fun. And they have been around for ages, so long in fact that no one really knows where…

Charles M. Crandall Toys—Vintage Playthings, Modern Play

Charles M. Crandall Toys—Vintage Playthings, Modern Play

Last fall, The Strong’s National Museum of Play began to look anew at some of the dolls, games, toys, and other playthings originally catalogued and photographed more than 30 years ago. Since that time, historians and collectors have added to the museum staff’s knowledge of how these toys were made, marketed, and played with. Studying…

The Lure of the Circus

The Lure of the Circus

When I was a kid, I used to dream about running away to join the circus to be a clown.  I loved the idea of being a clown—especially when my mother had come up with some particularly irksome chore. I found myself longing for the mystery and the majesty, the fun and the freedom of…

X Marx the Big Spot in the Toy Industry

X Marx the Big Spot in the Toy Industry

Some workdays at the Strong really stand out. The best days bring the National Museum of Play new and interesting toys for the collections. Recently, the museum received a donation of about 40 vintage toys (with a promise of more to come!) manufactured in the 20th century by the American toy giant Louis Marx &…

The Curious Case of the China Doll

The Curious Case of the China Doll

I don’t know that the words curator and curious come from a common root word, but I’ve noticed that most curators—like inquisitive three-year-olds—persistently ask questions. Even curators who’ve done thorough research keep on asking questions about their subject matter. And that’s the way things should be because researchers, historians, and collectors uncover new information all…