At the turn of the 20th century, the toy market in the United States relied heavily on European imports—only 30 percent of the toys sold were produced domestically. Retailers and salesmen depended on buyers who traveled abroad for goods and news of industry trends. In 1902, a group of American toy companies sought to change the status quo, stationing themselves in a lower Manhattan hotel for the month of February to entice toy buyers with American-made products as they departed for Europe and arrived home again.
Since their inception in the early 20th century, comic books have been synonymous with American youth and playfulness. The colorful, action-packed stories in the pages of comics translated into creative play in the backyard with capes and masks and into elaborate worlds scaled to the action figures on the playroom rug. As comics and action figures evolved, lines became blurred: which came first, the comic or the toy?
Historians debate the origins of paper airplanes. Early attempts at constructing flying machines fascinated children and adults alike. The success of the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk in 1903 fostered renewed hope of powered flight and no doubt contributed to the purported invention, in 1909, of the paper airplane.
My love of movable books and of antique toys and games containing the richly colored chromolithographs of the last half of the 1800s brought me to The Strong’s Online Collections. I spent four days “oohing” and “ahhing” over the vast archive of images in the museum’s database before I discovered it was possible to view the actual objects by arranging an appointment or, better yet, applying for a fellowship for an in-depth immersion.
I am a self-professed nerd. I blame (or should I say credit?) my parents, whose family vacation plans alternated visits to educational destinations such as Colonial Williamsburg, Gettysburg, and Washington, DC (No cruises to Aruba or trips to ski resorts for us, thanks. One spring break, my dad took my two brothers and me to a coal mine.) I devoured stacks of books from our town library each week—after completing my homework, of course. My school’s honors program generated plenty of extracurricular activities to keep our buzzing teenage minds occupied.
What comes to mind when you hear the term “paper toys”? Whatever you envision, chances are the idea of paper toys in our digital era doesn’t evoke quite the same level of enthusiasm as some other playthings do. Paper toys seem quiet and simple, perhaps even old-fashioned.
On February 11, 2014, the staff at The Strong and the American public learned of the passing of Shirley Temple Black, actor, politician, diplomat, and former U.S. ambassador. Most Americans, however, know Temple as the most popular child star in Hollywood history.