More than 100 Years of Playthings Magazine

Brian Sutton-Smith Library & Archives of Play News Release
One Manhattan Square Rochester, NY 14607 • 585-263-2700 •

October 1, 2010

For Immediate Release

Contact: Susan Trien, 585-410-6359

More than 100 Years of Playthings Magazine
Acquired by the Brian Sutton-Smith Library & Archives of Play
at the Strong in Rochester, New York

  • What were the hottest toys of 1903?
  • How did World War II forever change the nature of toy manufacturing?
  • What 1950s children’s television shows influenced toy-makers?

ROCHESTER, New York—More than a century of toy trends, news, and products are now accessible to researchers at the Strong’s Brian Sutton-Smith Library & Archives of Play in Rochester, New York, through the library’s recently acquired collection of Playthings (1903—2010), considered the nation’s leading toy trade magazine.

The Playthings Magazine Collection, the most complete public assemblage anywhere, covers more than 100 years of toy successes (and flops!) and chronicles the introduction of virtually every new toy that has found its way onto the nation’s toy store shelves and into children’s play rooms. Here, in its abundantly illustrated reviews, stories, and advertisements, researchers can witness the effects on the trade of such significant milestones as the Great Depression, World Wars I and II, and the rise of suburbia, pop culture, and the Internet.

“For anyone interested in a history of play in America, this is an incredible resource,” says the Strong’s Director of Library and Archives, Carol Sandler. “We are very pleased to make it available to researchers as it uniquely documents the changing shape of the toy industry and the world of toys and games over more than a century. Moreover, toy trends provide a window into the historic changes going on within the larger society.”

“We’re always interested in the ways that marketing shapes the world of toys and games,” says Christopher Bensch, Vice President for Collections at the Strong. “And there’s nothing that provides more opportunities for insights into the business behind the toys than Playthings magazine. Exploring more than 100 years of Playthings reveals which toys manufacturers thought would prove irresistible, how marketing departments pitched these toys to consumers, how companies evolved their product lines from year to year, and which toys remained popular over time.”

Henry C. Nathan founded Playthings magazine in New York in 1903, the year of the first American Toy Fair trade show. Due to changes in the business climate, Playthings ceased publication as a separate entity in the fall of 2010 and merged with Gifts & Decorative Accessories magazine, which now carries a Playthings insert section.


About the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play™

The Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play is a multidisciplinary research repository devoted to the intellectual, social, and cultural history of play. In addition to housing the personal library and papers of its preeminent namesake, the 130,000-volume research library and archives holds a full spectrum of primary and secondary sources, including scholarly works, professional journals, other periodicals, trade catalogs, children’s books, comic books, manuscripts, personal papers, business records, and more. Also housed here are the library and archival collections of the Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games (ICHEG).

Situated at the Strong

The Strong is a highly interactive, collections-based educational institution devoted to the study and exploration of play. Through the Brian Sutton Smith Library and Archives of Play and its other Play Partners—the National Museum of Play, the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, the National Toy Hall of Fame, and the American Journal of Play—the Strong explores play and the ways in which it encourages learning, creativity, and discovery and illuminates cultural history.