People at Play
In the beginning (or at least in the late 19th century), there was film. Capturing moving images and playing them back for astonished audiences at the cinema more than a century ago was magical. Though many people are still familiar with film, which has endured as a medium despite changing technologies, there are plenty of moving image formats which have been rendered obsolete over time and have found their way into the holdings of numerous libraries, archives, and museums.
Parents understand the importance of having a trick up their sleeves to distract and entertain within a moment’s notice. When I had to bring my toddler to a solemn family affair, I knew just what to slip into my pocket—a Matchbox car. It didn’t require power, it was quiet, and it was inexpensive. On November 7, 2019, Matchbox cars rolled into their place of honor in The Strong’s National Toy Hall of Fame.
It all began in a bombed-out pub, The Rifleman, in Tottenham, a district of North London, England. English die casters Leslie Smith and Rodney Smith (unrelated) founded Lesney Products in 1947 to produce industrial parts and, along with partner Jack Odell, began making small die-cast toys to fill slack demand during wintertime. In 1952, Odell was inspired by a rule at his daughter’s school that permitted students to only bring toys that fit inside a matchbox. Story goes that his daughter had the mischievous habit of taking spiders to school in a matchbox. Odell scaled down Lesney’s road roller toy, tucked it into a matchbox, and sent his daughter to school with it instead. The Matchbox car was born.
On November 7, 2019, I was delighted to help celebrate the induction of Magic: The Gathering into The Strong’s National Toy Hall of Fame. And that occasion inspired me to think back on my own personal history with the game. I played Magic: The Gathering for the first time during my senior year of high school. I’d played card games before, of course, but no amount of poker or Uno could prepare me for what, I would eventually learn, was the grandfather of all collectable card games.
2018 Strong Research Fellow
Syracuse University, NY
Alec S. Hurley, 2018 Strong Research Fellow
PhD Student, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Video games have become increasingly popular over the last few years. In fact, a recent survey suggests that approximately 2/3rds of American adults partake in the pursuit. But even with this emerging success, gaming continues to be dogged by decades-old accusations. Many of the medium’s most ardent critics argue that games offer only vacuous experiences. Lying beyond the pixels, polygons, and interactive scenes is just empty entertainment. Or, even worse, they argue that games are only a vehicle for mindless violence and other moral corruptions.
In September 2018, I got to spend two weeks engaging with the Stuart Brown and Brian Sutton-Smith papers located in The Strong’s Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play. These archival collections encompass the manuscripts, correspondence, unpublished drafts, and personal papers of two prominent play scholars and advocates, Stuart Brown and Brian Sutton-Smith.
Just after Thanksgiving of 2018, I had the opportunity to spend two weeks at The Strong museum on a Valentine-Cosman fellowship. I wanted to know how board games mirror our understanding of ourselves, and how that understanding has changed over the last half-century or so.