Digital History>eXplorations>Children and the Westward Movement>Frontier Children>Edward Everett Dale

Edward Everett Dale

The greatest difference between our play and that of present day children was that we had almost no toys except those which we made for ourselves. The greatest treasure of the average Cross Timbers boy of the 1880's was his pocket knife. It was usually a Barlow knife with one blade. [My brother] George and I each had one, which we whetted to a razor sharp edge on the sandstone that was abundant on our farm. To lose one's knife was a tragedy. Most little girls had only a doll and sometimes a set of little dishes.
Almost every boy also had a few marbles of various types ....

In addition to marbles and a pocket knife, I once received the gift of a small toy pistol and one box of caps. These were about the only "store bought" toys I ever owned. My sister Fannie, in Nebraska, sent us a Christmas box one year containing a bag of beautiful glass marbles for me and a harmonica, which we called a "French harp," for George. He was delighted with this and soon learned to play it very well ....
A good ball could be made from yarn obtained by unraveling an old hand knitted woolen sock.When the yarn had been rolled up as tightly as possible into a ball, somewhat smaller than a baseball, it had to be thoroughly sewed with a needle and thread or it would unravel. Rubber balls could be bought at a store for from ten to twenty five cents, but neither George nor I ever felt that we could afford to buy one, even if we had that much money, which was not often.

Source: Edward Everett Dale, The Cross Timbers, 81-82.

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