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Toy History Links This page has snippets from the history of toys and games as we know them today. We hope that you enjoy it and it is useful. Please tell us what you think: So, please come back again if you do not find what you are looking for today. Alternatively, sign up for our newsletter by contacting us with your request and we will try our best to help. The meaning of toys as we know it today being exclusively playthings for children was not commonly used until the nineteenth century. The word toy comes from an old English world meaning tool. Ancient toys from excavations of Egyptian ruins show that children had a variety: Some wooden animals had moveable parts, like the jaws of tigers and crocodiles. They played with clay spinning tops some propelled with a piece of thread on the end of a stick , balls, terracotta animals and dolls with moving arms and legs, baby toys including animal shaped rattles. Childrens games like naughts and crosses, knucklebones and blind man's bluff existed. Wood horses for both these eras were also favourites, including models of the Trojan horse. Many in this period were designed to develop physical fitness. Some, like the hoop, were used by both children and adults. Kites were another old plaything enjoyed by young and old. The Chinese, who invented kites over years ago, developed many variations and also used them to send signals. The Chinese or Japanese invented the whipped top at an early date. These became so popular and all different types spread throughout Asia and the Middle East. For example a Tudor Christmas was a special celebration full of fun and also pomp. The celebrations took place in halls and a Lord of Misrule rode in on a hobby horse , Mummers were actors, Jesters kept everyone happy and Merrymakers ordinary people wore costumes and heads of strange monsters! The musicians would have played with pipes, drums, lutes and whistles from a gallery. A Brief History of Toys Archaeological evidence suggests ancient toys were the same kind of playthings that children use today. Centuries ago Roman, Babylonian, Greek and Egyptian children had balls, rattles , dolls, animals, hoops, kites, marbles, stilts and tops. Some had traditional games like dominoes and checkers. New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art has an estimated year old Egyptian rattle shaped like a cow with some stones inside in its collection. A baker kneading bread figure, a crocodile snapping its jaws and a dog with moving tail and jaw have also been found from this era. The World's oldest board game is believed to be The Royal Game of Ur, which was played in Babylon for over years. The traditional board game Mancala may date back to as far as BC. Archaeology really helps to identify timelines and locations. For example clay tops were found in the ancient city of Ur dating from BC Ur is modern day Muqayyar, miles southeast of Baghdad, Iraq. Ceramic spinners made of terra cotta were found at Troy Turkey BC. Carved wood whip tops discovered in Egypt are aged between BC. In China, whip tops were found dating from BC. Fired clay tops were found from Thebes in Greece dated at around BC. Greek pottery, from around BC, is decorated with scenes of men and women playing with both whip and twirler top varieties. While many would have been made out of wood, it appears that ceramic tops could have been votive and used to honour the gods. Some may have also been a sign of affluence and were sometimes put in tombs as to be taken into the afterlife. Roman tops from 27 BC were found made of bone. Many early toy-like objects dolls and animals were closely related to religious beliefs and it can be difficult to tell the differences between these and those for children's play. One of the oldest official and clearly identified toys were found on a site of a year old temple in Iran. They are small pull along figures of a lion and a porcupine carved in limestone mounted on wheeled platforms and pulled along by a string. Another early discovery is a crude doll with movable arms and legs, which kneads bread or grinds corn when a string is pulled. The traditional Yo-Yo is believed to be the second oldest toy in known history. Some toy historians believe the yo-yo was originally used for hunting purposes. Pre 16th century American native children played with cornhusk dolls, small bows and arrows and leather balls stuffed with feathers. In the members of the Roanoke Expedition took dolls in Elizabethan dress for children they expected to find in the new country. The oldest surviving doll in the United States is called Letitia Penn after the daughter of William Penn, who brought the doll from Europe to Pennsylvania in In Jan Amos Komensky, a Czech educator wrote the first picture book for children and it was realized that illiteracy was a disadvantage in an expanding world and growing concern with education was felt. Parents began to think in terms of their children's happiness as well as their moral wellbeing. This new attitude was reflected in an expanding toy trade and toy shops began to appear. The USA founding father Benjamin Franklin wrote about a toy store in Boston in where, for a few coppers, he was able to buy a whistle. In an advertisement in the Independent Gazetteer of Philadelphia had dolls, drums and toy harps for sale. The advent of the Industrial Revolution changed the character of toys due to being able to manufacture them in larger quantities. Wooden toys, straw and stone were rapidly displaced by iron and tinplate. Children could get manufactured toys at reasonable prices instead of having to make their own, a growing trend that accelerated factory production and distribution. Toys also became more and more sophisticated and by the end of the 19th century construction toys were appearing. Then by the early twentieth century electric trains and powered mechanical toys became very popular. Production was hampered during wars and sometimes ceased altogether as a result of shortages of both materials and labour. World Wars 1 and 2 were memorably disruptive, with many toy manufacturers converting all production to materials for war. Following World War 2 production gradually changed. Space toys with plastic parts such as robots and rockets became popular. Most of these were made in Japan. Electrical and battery operated toys have gradually come to replace those animated by spring-driven motors. The growth of television and video games has also affected pastimes and traditional games. But the longing of some parents and children for more conventional toys has led to a resurgence of the wooden toy and stuffed toy industries. Today's toy industry remains a blend of the revolutionary and traditional toys in many ways changed, but in other ways much the same as it was fifty or a hundred years ago. Toys of Society As long as toys have existed they have reflected the cultures that produced them. They reflect popular styles of clothing, activities, occupations, social standards and conditions. For example boats, wheeled vehicles and planes of transportation all show the styles of the period in which they were made. Doll makers and craft toys often reflect period styles and clothing. Parental concerns about the violent nature of some toys also have historic roots, as toy weapons and military equipment date back to pre-classical times, they also can reflect eras when the males of the family were expected to defend their homes and perform military service as required. Gender and Toys Boys and girls show little difference in preference for pre-school toys. Something appears to happen around the age of five that divides children. Girls start playing with dolls and boys with soldiers? Boys usually want all kinds of playthings and girls seem to settle on dolls as their favourites. The toy industry blames the dearth of girl products on conservative parents who don't want their sons to play with dolls and who won't buy racing cars for their daughters! Among the most advertised in eleven of the top fifteen were for boys, three at girls and one was gender-neutral. This disparity stems at least partly from the fact that parents are more generous with sons than daughters. The gender gap widens as they get older. The parental spending gap may reflect the fact that girls mature faster and start asking for clothes, cassette tapes and other gifts in their pre-teen years. Lately though, some firms are trying to introduce more girl oriented products, especially interactive computer programs. The World of Toys European toys were often handcrafted at home from simple materials, or in the case of the wealthier in small quantities by skilled craftsmen. During the middle ages the large network of fairs that sprang up across Europe created a demand for handcrafted toys to sell. Many reflected the life around them knights, horses , saints. One of the earliest and most long lasting is the hobby horse. Usually it was a simply carved stick, but many had elaborate trappings and in later years rockers were provided for movement. German craftsmen, with their unlimited supply of material from the forests, specialised in beautifully carved and painted toys. Craftsmen's guilds established strict standards to ensure quality and Nuremberg became a centre for the distribution of toys. Gradually German toy manufacturers came to dominate the market. By the end of the 19th century large German factories were turning out high quality dolls, mechanical toys, construction sets, and the favourites from the past. They were so popular in the U. Frank Bellow wrote the following in his book The Art of Amusing in We are never jolly. We are terribly troubled about our dignity. All other nations, the French, the German, the Italian, and even the English, have their relaxation, their merry-making; but we, why, a political or prayer-meeting is about the most hilarious affair in which we ever indulge. At one time, they even forbade the celebration of Christmas, Xmas gifts and the Christmas party games associated with it. Children were thought of as miniature adults and since no laws existed to protect them and they were forced to work alongside adults. With labour being scarce young people's work was essential to the survival of the community.
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