Daily News negatives collection, DN-0003451. Courtesy of
the Chicago Historical Society.
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.
What kinds of toys were produced during the early 20th century?
Were they sold to parents or children?
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?
How did toys change over the course of the century—and
how does this reflect changing attitudes about childhood and
about parent-child relations?