Currently numbering more than 72,000 artifacts, The Strong’s toy collections are recognized as one of the most comprehensive aggregations of such things for play anywhere. The contents range from alphabet blocks, construction sets, and teddy bears to airplanes, trains, mechanical banks, and more. Individually and collectively, they reflect the events, trends, and cultural values of the various times from which they sprang. Those noted below represent some of the most popular and historically significant groupings in the collections.
Almost as soon as the Wright Brothers first flew their aircraft at North Carolina’s Kitty Hawk, toy manufacturers began to fuel kids’ fascination with things that fly. The simplest aviation toys replicated the earliest planes. Others, sold as kits, encouraged kids to build and fly their own models. Still others documented advances in military and commercial aviation or celebrated particular events, such as Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic and stunt pilots’ barnstorming acts of the 1920s. Manufacturers like Ferdinand Strauss, Louis Marx, Ideal, Hubley, Buddy L, Metalcraft, Wyandotte, Tootsietoy, and Renwal in the United States and Meccano Dinky, Playcraft Toys, Joutra, Cardini, Ernst Planck, GAMA, and Bandai in Japan all produced aviation toys. All are represented in the museum’s collection of more than 500 examples.
Alphabet and Building Blocks
For generations, alphabet and building blocks have ranked among toddlers’ first toys. Parents and child experts alike favor them because playing with them helps children develop hand-eye coordination, creativity, and the ability to experiment. In the late 19th century, toy makers devised ways of sawing blocks in quantity and embossing the wood with letters, numbers, and figures in low relief. By the early 1900s, manufacturers produced brightly colored chromolithograph images on paper-covered blocks. The Progressives and educators of the early 20th century promoted alphabet and building blocks as toys that gave toddlers nicely-sized objects to manipulate and, in the case of alphabet blocks especially, also placed the building blocks of reading before children early in their development. The more than 200 block sets in the museum’s collection extend from embossed wooden sets from the 19th century through current molded plastic blocks in primary colors.
See also Alphabet Blocks, inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2003, and “Charles M. Crandall Toys—Vintage Playthings, Modern Play.”
In the last quarter of the 19th century, companies such as Arcade, Dent, Hubley, Kenton, and Carpenter became known for their horse-drawn fire wagons, circus wagons, and grocer and milk wagons. Later, when automobiles appeared on America’s highways, companies produced toy Ford Model Ts, Buick coupes, and DeSoto sedans in faithful detail. Those, along with taxicabs, tractor trailers, dump trucks, and other conveyances, replicated the variety of real-life vehicles on city streets. In fact, manufacturers boasted that their toys had educational value because boys could pretend to drive cars and trucks that looked like those of their fathers. Beyond the more than 100 items in the Arcade Collection, the museum has more than 200 additional fire trucks, circus wagons, carriages, motorcycles, and other cast-iron vehicles dating from the late 1900s to the start of World War II.
Playing with building sets requires imagination, planning, critical thinking, and strategizing—all skills that kids rely on when they enter the adult world. Since the 19th century, toy makers have tried to produce a better construction set. Building blocks—which occupy their own collections category at The Strong—have continued to the present, but they have been joined by such 20th-century classics as Tinkertoys, Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, and others. Beyond building blocks, the museum holds more than 300 construction sets that run the gamut from Erector Sets and Lincoln Logs to the latest LEGO and K’NEX products. Together they demonstrate the ways technology, materials, and marketing have shaped popular building toys over more than a century.
Dollhouse Furnishings, Miniatures, and Miniature Rooms
Miniature replicas of things in the real world have intrigued and fascinated humans for centuries. The earliest miniatures looked much like the handcrafted adult furniture and housewares they copied. As manufacturers learned to use cast iron, sheet metal, tin, and plastic in mass-production, miniatures appeared in toy and other stores in increasing numbers. These days, miniatures have two main groups of devotees. Children continue to play with their dollhouses but are just as likely to furnish virtual dollhouses on the Internet at Club Penguin, Webkinz, The Sims series website, and similar multiuser game sites. Meanwhile, building and furnishing dollhouses and miniature rooms is a popular hobby for grown-ups. The museum’s collection includes more than 20,000 miniatures, some of them playthings for children and some of them things of play for adults. Also included are more than 200 miniature rooms and settings.
For more than 500 years, dollhouses—from ones built as status symbols for wealthy European adults in the 1500s to ones handcrafted for children in the 1600s and 1700s, and from ones mass-produced in the 1800s and 1900s to ones finely crafted by adult hobbyists in the 2000s—have been important objects for self-expression and fantasy. As toys, dollhouses help children learn about interior design and household management and encourage them to use their imaginations to create and share stories. The more than 250 dollhouses in the museum’s collection range from elaborate hand-crafted Victorian mansions to printed metal ranch-style houses and include everything from toddler-targeted plastic dollhouses to hobbyists’ models.
Mechanical and Still Banks
Mechanical and still banks first appeared after the Civil War, when munitions manufacturers retooled their foundries to produce peace-time goods. The simple mechanical actions of some of these banks delighted children, promoted thrift, and reflected popular pastimes. Some celebrated contemporary events—President Theodore Roosevelt shoots at a bear in one; Spain and the United States go to war in another; and the 1892 celebration of Columbus’s landing in the New World appears in another. Still others perpetuated ethnic biases and poked fun at politicians. The museum’s collections include some 700 examples of these three-dimensional artifacts of history.
More than 1,800 mechanical toys in the museum’s collection demonstrate the many ways they’ve walked, waddled, rolled, and hopped into play history, from 19th-century clockwork metal toys to plastic windups given away at fast food restaurants today. The collection also features an array of elaborate 19th-century automata.
Star Wars Action Figure Collection
Between 1978 (a year after the first Star Wars movie appeared) and 2013, fans of it and its five sequels purchased more than 300 million 3.75-inch-high plastic action figures based on the movies’ engaging characters. Because of the action figures’ long-lasting popularity, The Strong inducted them into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2012. This collection includes 2,400 items, which represent 85 percent of the approximately 2,300 distinct figures made in the first 35 years of the toy line. Fon Davis, a former Industrial Light and Magic model maker who worked on the earliest Star Wars movies, assembled the encyclopedic collection. Before coming to The Strong, it served to illustrate Star Wars: The Ultimate Action Figure Collection by former Lucasfilm executive Steven J. Sansweet.
Ever since the early 20th century, when toymaker Morris Michtom fashioned a soft bear figure of plush fabric and, with President Theodore Roosevelt’s permission, named it Teddy’s Bear, teddy bears have persisted as popular and cuddly toys, appealing to children and adults alike. From classic Steiff designs to the latest Build-a-Bear creations, the more than 400 examples in the museum’s collection represent the wide variety of teddy bears over the past century.
Steam powered the first toy trains, and when manufacturers figured out how to use electricity to power the toys, model layouts became common in family playrooms. Joshua Lionel Cohen offered his first train sets in the early 1900s, and by the middle of the 20th century, Lionel trains dominated the market. By the 1930s, adult modelers—mostly men—founded the National Model Railroad Association with local chapters in every state. By the end of the 20th century, hobbyists numbered about 500,000 throughout the United States. The museum owns more than 1,000 pieces of Lionel rolling stock and thousands more related items for creating the elaborate layouts that kids and adults both find so engaging. The collection also represents brands other than Lionel.
See also Lionel Trains, inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2006.
Toy historians speculate that yo-yos have been around for centuries. Patent applications for improvements to the basic spool on a string appeared in the United States around 1866. Yo-yos have been part of American childhood since the 1920s and especially since the toy’s revival by Duncan in the 1960s. Not just for kids, however, the yo-yo is the centerpiece of dozens of local, national, and international contests for yo-yo tricksters of all ages. The museum’s collection includes nearly 1,900 examples of the popular toy.
Toy Company Collections
A significant number of toys in The Strong’s collections are organized according to manufacturers because of the history of those particular companies and their association with particular types of toys. All the types of toys represented here are also represented in other ways under the heading Toy Collections.
Between 1885 and 1943, the Arcade Manufacturing Company of Freeport, Illinois, made a number of metal products, but it is best known for its cast-iron playthings, including cars, trucks, buses, planes, farm vehicles, savings banks, and even pint-sized tools and garden implements. The company distinguished itself with novel advertising and with recognizable models of known brands such as popular automobiles, Ford farm equipment, and Chicago Yellow Cabs. The museum holds more than 100 examples of these toys.
Since the 1930s, when the company began making toys of heavy steel and ponderosa pine decorated with eye-catching lithograph images of charming bears, ducks, donkeys, and other animals, Fisher-Price toys have been among the earliest playthings received by many American babies and toddlers. After Mattel purchased the company in 1993, its toys reached markets around the world. The museum holds more than 300 Fisher-Price products, including push toys, pull toys, play sets, and Little People sets.
See also “I’d Like to Thank All the Little People.”
GUND, Inc. Collection of Toys, 1920s–1970s
The GUND Manufacturing Company, founded in 1898 by Adolph Gund, supplied the nation’s growing market for soft toys including teddy bears, mechanical toys, plush animals, cloth dolls, and puppets. GUND’s success benefited from several innovations in technology and marketing. In 1915 it patented a method of mechanizing its plush toys to make them move and talk. GUND also specialized in supplying plush toys for gift-giving holidays like Christmas and Easter. In 1925 Adolph Gund retired and sold his corporation to an employee, Jacob Swedlin, and the company continued to prosper. In 1947, it partnered with Walt Disney Productions to offer plush figures of such hugely popular characters as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald and Daisy Duck, Dumbo, Snow White, Mary Poppins, and others. Successive generations of the Swedlin family led GUND until it was purchased in 2008 by Enesco.
The GUND Collection of toys number more than 200 plush figures and soft toys dating from the 1920s through the 1970s.
Louis Marx Collection
In 1955, Time magazine named Louis Marx & Company “the Toy King.” Between 1921 and 1972, the company produced a wide variety of toys ranging from dolls, dollhouses, trains, cars and vehicles to toy soldiers, toy guns, action figures, and an immense variety of mechanical tin toys. Yearly alterations kept Marx toys in production for decades and thus held down per unit costs. Toys based on popular television and movie characters boosted the company in the 1950s and 1960s. Among the more than 200 Marx toys in the museum’s collection are popular stand-outs like Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots, the Big Wheel tricycle, and Honeymoon Express wind-up toys.
Arto Monaco Collection, 1945–1995
Adirondacks native Arto Monaco designed and built theme parks and toys over a career spanning six decades. Known widely for developing Land of Makebelieve in Upper Jay, New York, and Santa’s Workshop in North Pole, New York, he consulted on projects from Disneyland to Montreal’s Expo 67 World’s Fair. Monaco began designing and making toys and games through his Arto Monaco Toys company in the 1950s and developed a reputation for both educational and whimsical designs, many with circus motifs. The collection includes more than 300 toys and prototypes, plus a selection of advertising materials, and illustrates small-scale, quality toy manufacturing.
Playskool Toddler Collection
This collection of toddler-oriented Playskool toys includes more than 125 artifacts. Playskool originated in the 1920s with two teachers designing toys for classrooms. In the 1960s the company increased sales in part through a “Learning While Playing” slogan. Now owned by Hasbro’s Milton Bradley, the company is a leading manufacturer of toys for infants and children. Perhaps best known for simple wooden toys like blocks and pegboards, Playskool also makes toddler clothing, preschool books, and interactive computer games. The brand is also associated with such iconic toys as Play-Doh and Mr. Potato Head and with toy lines featuring Barney the purple dinosaur and the Teletubbies. These and other Playskool toys are represented elsewhere in the museum’s collections.
Ty Beanie Baby Collection
Ty, maker of numerous types of plush toys, produced its first nine Beanie Babies in 1993, and almost instantly the moderately priced, diminutively sized, plush animals became best sellers in specialty shops throughout the United States. Tiny PVC beads made Beanies flexible and poseable, low prices made them affordable, and creative marketing—including limited production and avoidance of large-chain retailers—made them desirable. By 2010, the company had produced nearly 1,800 different Beanie Babies. The museum’s collection includes nearly 800 examples, most of which are gifts from Ty. Also included are miniature versions offered as Happy Meal toys at McDonald’s.
This expansive assemblage of nearly 15,000 items ranges from paper dolls to collector dolls. It includes rarities such as Thomas Edison’s Phonographic Doll (1890) and numerous Bru and Jumeau dolls; many other elegant examples of 19th-century French and German dolls; and thousands of other popular and fashion dolls from the early 20th century to the present.
Since her introduction by Mattel in 1959, Barbie has dominated the toy world like no other doll. She even has her own category in the organizing scheme for The Strong’s collections. Her design, marketing, and overall popularity, together with criticism from detractors, reveal much about American attitudes and values over the last 50-plus years. The museum’s Barbie collection includes more than 2,500 dolls and Barbie-related items from clothing and dollhouses to toy vehicles and pets. Included are five examples of Bild Lilli (the German doll that inspired the Barbie concept and design), the No. 1 and No. 2 Barbie (which launched the Barbie phenomenon), TeenTalk Barbie (infamous for her “math class is tough” line), and Totally Hair Barbie (the best-selling Barbie ever).
Dolls after 1950 (excluding Barbie)
According to some historians, the mid-20th century marks the golden age of American doll making. During World War II, manufacturers developed technologies for working with plastic, and after the war, no fewer than 84 American companies offered dolls of easily molded hard plastic and vinyl for girls to dress, walk, feed, and bathe. Other dolls had hair to comb, curl, and color. Television brought advertising for almost all of them into living rooms and directly to children. Excluding Barbie dolls, who have a collections category all by themselves, the museum holds more than 1,500 post-1950 dolls, including extensive examples of Vogue, Bratz, Madame Alexander, and Nancy Ann dolls, plus modern classics such as Cabbage Patch Kids and American Girl dolls.
Dolls before 1950
Dolls became popular playthings for children in the early 1800s when German toymakers first offered mass-produced dolls of papier-mâché and when mothers and girls fashioned rag dolls from cheaper, factory-produced cloth. Since then, dolls have reflected rapid changes in manufacturing technology, raw materials, and consumer values and tastes. The more than 8,500 pre-1950 dolls in the museum’s collection feature elegant examples by French and German makers from the 19th century, cuddly cloth dolls, and popular American dolls from the 1930s and 1940s, such as Shirley Temple, Ginny, Betsy Wetsy, and Toni and Terri Lee dolls. Also included are many rarities such as Thomas Edison’s Phonographic Doll (1890), an A. Marque doll, and numerous fine examples of Bru and Jumeau dolls.
Paper dolls first appeared in France and England in the 18th century. Some early ones attempted to depict moral virtue and a pious demeanor; some illustrated actors and actresses for use on accompanying paper stages. Other paper dolls encouraged children to dress them in printed outfits or to fashion outfits from bits of fabric, lace, magazine pages, and tissue paper. In the 19th century, newspapers and magazines hoped to increase circulation by including pages of paper dolls to cut out and dress. In the 20th century, American magazines offered monthly installments in story series like “Dolly Dingle,” “Peggy Pryde,” “Bonnie and Betty Bobbs,” “The Kewpies,” and “Polly and Peter Perkins.” “Betsy McCall” appeared in McCall’s magazine into the 1990s. The more than 2,800 paper dolls in the museum’s collection include early handmade dolls, paper dolls from newspapers and magazines, advertising paper dolls, and published paper dolls sold in toy departments and bookstores.
At nearly 8,000 items and counting, The Strong’s game collections include board games, card games, dexterity puzzles, role-playing games, game prototypes, and more. This category does not include video games and other electronic games, which are organized and treated separately.
The game collections described here represent some of the most popular and historically significant groupings. Some listed under manufacturers’ and inventors’ names also include items other than games from those makers and designers.
Between 1915 and 1945, the Rochester, New York, firm All-Fair—known variously over time as Alderman-Fairchild, Fairco, and E. E. Fairchild—ranked only behind Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley as an important American game manufacturer. The museum holds about 225 examples of the company’s games, toys, and puzzles, representing the complete scope of the company’s game and toy products. Examples include some of the firm’s earliest efforts in high-quality games as well as classic later versions in bright, Art Deco designs.
The Strong’s American board games collection constitutes the largest diversified collection of such artifacts in a public institution in the United States. From timeless classics like chess and checkers to the latest party and trivia games, the more than 2,500 board games in the museum’s collection demonstrate both the range and continuity of this important form. Highlights in the collection include examples of early games such as the Mansion of Happiness (1843) and the Jolly Game of Goose (1851), as well as the earliest known version of the Monopoly game (1933), handmade by Charles Darrow, who produced the first commercial version of the game. The collection is especially strong in late 19th- and early 20th-century games with boxes and boards decorated in beautiful chromolithography. Like games throughout American history, these reflect the trends and currents of the popular culture that surrounded them.
Card Games and Playing Cards
The museum holds more than 1,300 proprietary game decks and standard 52-card decks. Unlike standard card decks, proprietary game decks are concerned with one type of play. Over the years proprietary card games have provided a less expensive alternative to board games while representing many of the same types of themes, such as popular pastimes, current events, children’s literature, and adult literature—especially the game of Authors. The museum’s collection ranges from childhood classics such as Fish and Authors, and branded games like Flinch and Uno, to late-19th- and early-20th-century proprietary games with colorful images printed on their boxes.
McLoughlin Brothers Collection
McLoughlin Brothers made games and other items of play from 1828 to 1920. The museum’s collection of more than 800 items consist chiefly of board and card games and also includes paper dolls, puzzles, and children’s books. Most of the items date from the late 19th century or early 20th century. All McLoughlin products from this period featured vivid color illustrations created through chromolithography.
Milton Bradley Collection
Milton Bradley, who set up his first color lithography shop in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1860, is often credited with launching the board game industry in the United States. The museum holds more than 575 examples of games manufactured by his company. Among these are several examples, from different periods, of his best-selling game, The Checkered Game of Life, and of his early teaching products, which he aimed at the kindergarten movement in the second half of the 19th century. Other examples of puzzles and games carry the collection through the present and include many mid-20th century examples with direct ties to popular culture trends.
Parker Brothers Collection
Founded by 16-year-old George S. Parker in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1883, Parker Brothers—Charles joined the firm in 1888 and Edward in 1898—specialized in games that offered simple fun, rather than emphasizing morals and values. The museum’s collection includes more than 650 examples of Parker Brothers’ financial games (most notably, Monopoly) fortune telling games, racing games, and nonsense games, and ranges from the popular 1906 card game Rook to modern classics such as Clue, Risk, and Sorry!
See also “Tea or Monopoly with Mussolini?”
The museum holds more than 1,100 examples of role-playing games, the manufacture and consumption of which peaked during the 1980s. Role-playing games are important for their contribution to electronic gaming and the many role-playing options now common in that medium. This collection covers a highly representative sample of all major manufacturers and types and is particularly strong in works by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, founders of TSR. These men are considered pivotal in the development of role-playing games, and their firm’s products are among the best known. The collection includes important examples of those as well as special games made available only at conferences. Examples range from the earliest beginnings of the form, in the mid-1970s, to the present.
Ron Dubren Collection
The more than 350 games, toys, and prototypes in this collection document the 30-year career of game inventor and artist Ron Dubren, who is particularly well-known as the co-creator, with Greg Hyman, of the Tickle Me Elmo toy. In addition to many examples of various versions of this toy, the collection includes a wide range of other toys and games, from Dubren’s own Chinese Chess to licensed character games such as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The collection sheds light not only on those particular games and toys and the play they inspired and enabled, but also on toy and game industry design and production processes.
Sid Sackson Prototypes Collection
This collection consists of 330 three-dimensional prototypes of games invented by Sid Sackson, whose 1969 book A Gamut of Games remains an industry classic. Sackson also wrote a column—“Sackson on Games”—for Strategy and Tactics magazine in the mid 1970’s, and his life and works are still revered by serious gamers and game designers around the world. Acquire, Sleuth, and Take-Five stand among his numerous well-known and long-lasting games. His abstract strategy board game Focus, which first appeared in the early 1960s, received the prestigious German Spiel des Jahres game design award in 1981.
See also “The Pre-Game Show: it Starts with a Prototype” and the Sid Sackson Papers housed in The Strong’s Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play, which include his diaries plus game descriptions and rules, writings, correspondence, and other materials that document his career.
In addition to historical objects and other materials about toys, dolls, and games, The Strong’s holdings include a broad range of other artifacts of play. Major categories include, among others, souvenirs and postcards, sheet music, objects based on popular and literary characters, and examples of home crafts and hobbies dating back to the 19th century.
Berenstain Bears Collection
Since the 1960s, Stan and Jan Berenstain’s popular children’s book series, The Berenstain Bears, has sold millions of copies and taught kids numerous lessons about family and everyday life. With more than 300 titles in print, the series stands as one of the most successful in the history of children’s publishing. The Berenstain Bears have also starred in three animated television series, five NBC holiday specials, and several examples of (edutainment) software. Thanks to a generous donation from the Berenstain family, the more than 450 Berenstain Bears objects in the museum’s collection represent the full range of licensed Bears products through the years.
Julie Conner Miniature Room Collection
Donald Duck Collection
While he may not match Mickey Mouse in popularity, Donald Duck has been around since 1934 and has exhibited enduring appeal in the wide array of products—toys, games, clothing, household accessories, and food items—that have used his iconic image. The museum’s collection includes some 450 examples of Donald’s appearance in artifacts of American popular culture over time.
Home Crafts and Hobbies Collection
Leisure activities take numerous forms. Many children and adults turn to home crafts and similar hobbies and creative endeavors to entertain and express themselves. The museum holds more than 2,000 objects representing such crafts, hobbies, and related leisure activities by both children and adults. These artifacts include everything from 19th-century pieced quilts and carved whimsies to examples of the latest craft projects and kits.
See also “Ever the Crafty One.”
Anne Heuer Lewis Tinker Toy Collection, 1924–Present
Tinkertoys, the iconic construction set made of wooden spools and dowels, first appeared in stores in 1914. The Anne Heuer Lewis collection of Tinker Toy products includes about 110 examples of these construction sets (an inductee to the National Toy Hall of Fame) that document variations in packaging, size, and contents from the 1920s to the present. Lewis’s collection also consists of 120 other toys made between 1914 and the 1940s by The Toy Tinkers of Evanston, Illinois. These represent craft sets, toys made of wooden beads, games, play sets, pull toys, and other playthings. Paper materials in the collection consist of advertisements, brochures, and catalogues, gift tags, and sheet music. The collection also includes toys made by subsequent owners of the Tinkertoy brand including A. G. Spaulding, Questor, Gabriel, Playskool, and, since 1994, Hasbro, Inc.
Iris F. Hollander November Statue of Liberty Collection
Collecting is a significant form of play. Iris November began collecting Statue of Liberty items in 1985 at a fundraising auction. Recalling that she was a first generation American on her mother’s side led her to decide to “have a little collection.” That, in turn, led her eventually to found the Statue of Liberty Collectors Club in 1991 and to create this collection of 1,650 Statue of Liberty souvenirs and related products, which she donated to the museum in memory of her mother Celeste Coriene Flaxman. The collection consists chiefly of objects from the early 20th century to the present.
See also “Saluting the Statue of Liberty.”
Philip E. Orbanes Collection
This collection of more than 700 items includes the world’s most comprehensive collection of classic Monopoly games. Philip E. Orbanes, who assembled the collection, led research and development teams at Parker Brothers for more than a decade and is widely recognized as the foremost authority on the company and on Monopoly. The collection includes every mass-produced edition of authentic Monopoly from the first home-produced versions by Charles Darrow to special Millennia editions from the year 2000. Also included are handmade games such as the famous Roy Stryker oilcloth Landlords’s Game, every Parker-made Mah-Jongg set and other famous first editions such as Parker’s 1949 Clue, plus game and toy prototypes from Orbanes’s career at Ideal and his own company, Gamescience.
See also the Philip E. Orbanes Papers in The Strong’s Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play.
Garth Parker Collection, 1978–2012
Garth Parker worked for more than 30 years as a toy designer, product developer, and a producer of customized merchandise. The Garth Parker Collection includes toys Parker designed for quick-serve restaurants such as Burger King, Pizza Hut, Subway, and Taco Bell and for scores of other corporations including 20th Century Fox, Aladdin Industries, Colgate-Palmolive, Dairy Queen, and Ralston-Purina. The toys Parker designed involved licensed properties from Disney, Marvel, Nickelodeon, Warner Bros., several major sports leagues, and popular characters from television shows. The collection of more than 250 Parker-designed toys and products accompanies his “toy library,” or toys he acquired to inspire the products he created. In addition, Parker’s collection includes an archive of concept drawings and supporting materials now housed in The Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives at The Strong.
Raggedy Ann and Andy Collection
Comic strip artist and graphic illustrator Johnny B. Gruelle created Raggedy Ann Stories for the P. F. Volland publishing company in 1918. Three years later Gruelle followed with Raggedy Andy stories, and soon Volland issued the dolls as tie-ins to its books. Dolls and books alike have remained popular and in production ever since. The Raggedy Ann and Andy Museum of Arcola, Illinois, donated many of the more than 1,400 Raggedy Ann and Andy items in this collection. It illustrates some of the hundreds of products—furniture, clothing, Halloween costumes, games, records, food products, and holiday decorations—that have employed Raggedy Ann and Andy’s images for almost a century.
See also “Raggedy Ann Makes Her Move”; Raggedy Ann and Andy, inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2002 and 2007; and the Gruelle Family Collection in The Strong’s Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play.
Santa Claus Collection
Santa Claus has been a part of American popular culture for nearly 200 years. Nineteenth-century poems like “’Twas the Night before Christmas” (1844)—a copy of which in the hand of Clement Moore resides in The Strong’s Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play—and paintings like Thomas Nast’s “A Jolly Good Fellow” (1874)—which is part of this collection—made a fat, jolly, gift-giving Santa central to many Americans’ holiday traditions. His highly recognizable image has also long been a staple in American advertising. The more than 1,000 items illustrating or in the shape of Santa Claus in this collection include numerous Christmas decorations but extends to everything from ads to yo-yos.
Sheet Music Collection
Sheet music preceded the Victrola and radio in making popular music accessible to the public. Before these innovations, the piano and sheet music brought the latest popular songs to families, groups of friends, and even whole neighborhoods. The museum holds more than 2,400 pieces of sheet music ranging from simply designed mid-19th century pieces to ones bearing fancy chromolithographed covers of the late 1800s and early 1900s. The collection is highly representative of American popular culture up to the present. Modern examples range from Disney movie themes to contemporary rock and roll.
Harvey Simmons Greyhound Bus Collection, 1920s–1990s
Harvey Simmons collected toy models of Greyhound buses and company memorabilia for several decades. His collection includes about 200 bus models dating from the 1930s to the present day and contains toy buses from major American toy manufacturers such as Louis Marx & Company, Arcade, Tootsietoy, Buddy L, Keystone, and Mattel. Models from international companies include Corgi Junior, Matchbox, Cranstan, and LineMar. The Simmons collection also includes models of the vehicles that Greyhound used to transport visitors around World’s Fairs in 1933 and in 1964. The collection also numbers about 100 items related to Greyhound that are not toys. These artifacts include a driver’s uniform and personal gear such as buttons and pins, matchbooks, maps, postcards, and advertisements from Saturday Evening Post, Life, and Look.
Souvenir and Postcard Collection
The Strong has more than 1,500 souvenirs of all types and nearly 20,000 postcards. The souvenirs range from paperweights etched for expositions to pennants marked for sports teams. There are miniature buildings, shot glasses, mementos from amusement parks, and more. Postcards may be souvenirs too—many of them are marked as such—or brief letters home from a far-away locale. Either way, like souvenirs, each may record a significant and personal event in a person’s life.
Today’s fascination with 3-D reality in movies and on television is really nothing new. The human eye sees one thing, the camera records another. This collection includes more than 4,500 stereographs—stereo photographs meant to be viewed through a stereoscope viewer. The collection extends chiefly from the late 19th century through the middle of the 20th. Many of the stereographs record famous views of national monuments, parks, and gravesites. Some are educational series meant to be viewed in sequence. Others are humorous examples meant to provoke a laugh.
Marianne Szymanski Toy Tips Collection
This collection consists of more than 400 examples of toys, games, and dolls targeted largely to the specialty toy market. In addition to containing items not otherwise represented in the museum’s collections, it illustrates one of several avenues through which toys and juvenile products may get tested and reviewed en route to or shortly after reaching the marketplace.
Anne D. Williams Jigsaw Puzzle Collection, 1766–2014
As the nation’s foremost expert on jigsaw puzzles and jigsaw history, collector Anne Williams authored the definitive books on the subject and amassed examples of puzzles produced by virtually every American manufacturer and many from other countries. The collection includes more than 7,000 puzzles, including one cut in 1766 by Englishman John Spilsbury, believed to be the first person to cut puzzle maps for teaching geography, and encompasses both the first mass wave of puzzle popularity in the 1910s and the second and bigger jigsaw craze in 1932 and 1933. Other noteworthy puzzles come from such companies as Pastime, Par, and Stave. In addition to puzzles from mainstream manufacturers, the collection also includes examples from home cutters and presents a broad view of American popular culture reflected in an object of play enjoyed by both children and adults.