Toys

Image of child in toy car. Chicago Daily News negatives collection, DN-0003451. Courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society.
Image of child with baby buggy. Chicago Daily News negatives collection, DN-0003451. Courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society.
Image of woman with toys. Chicago Daily News negatives collection, DN-0003451. Courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society.
Chicago Daily News negatives collection, DN-0003451. Courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society.

Many of the toys that we think of as “traditional”—such as stuffed animals, store-bought dolls, and train sets—are of remarkably recent vintage, dating to the early years of the 20th century. Prior to the 20th century, store-bought toys were a rarity; most toys were homemade. Those toys that did exist were largely for group activities. Toys for solitary play were uncommon.

Key Questions:

1. What kinds of toys were produced during the early 20th century?

2. Were they sold to parents or children?

3. What was the purpose of the toys? Were they educational? Were they intended to socialize children for specific gender roles? Were they intended to appeal to children’s fantasies?

4. How did toys change over the course of the century—and how does this reflect changing attitudes about childhood and about parent-child relations?

Copyright Digital History 2018