Muskoka’s Early Toys
Muskoka’s Early Toys
‘Tis the season to celebrate Muskoka’s heritage! The stories of children are an incredibly important, and often forgotten, aspect of our region’s history. For the month of December, the Muskoka Lakes Museum wishes to honour the stories of children through taking a look at Muskoka’s early toys.
Let’s play with dolls!
Before Barbie and Ken, dolls were made out of ceramic, fabric and even wood.
Though today she may seem a bit odd, this ceramic doll was once considered a great prize. This doll, created in 1926, is called a “Sweetie Girl” and is made of chalkware – a type of inexpensive ceramic used for toys and figurines in the early 20th century. Because they did not cost much to produce, dolls like this were often given out as prizes at carnivals or fairs. Our “Sweetie Girl” is dressed in a typical 1920s flapper dress.
This dashing sailor was made by Victoria Toy Works between the 1930s – 1950s. During World War 2, the company produced “Jolly Boy” sailor figures which were sold as souvenirs on cruise ships to raise money for the Royal Air Force Comforts Fund. This particular fellow was sold on the Holland America S.S. Rotterdam.
Let’s play soldier!
During and after the World Wars, toys guns increased in popularity.
This cap gun was manufactured by J. & E. Stevens Pluck, a toy company that operated between 1843 and 1950, specializing in cast iron toys like these. Pulling back the trigger and releasing it makes a realistic “pop” sound. Since 1988, cap guns and other toy weaponry is required to have an orange tip so they are not mistaken for real weapons. Many collectors retrofit their Pluck guns with homemade orange tips.
Early on, most toys that were available in Muskoka were manufactured in Canada or the U.S.A. However, by the mid 20th century, imports from other countries had replaced locally made toys. This toy gun was made in Hong Kong.
Let’s play kitchen!
Kitchen toy sets were originally created for and marketed to young girls. The idea of playing kitchen was connected to the traditional gendered idea of becoming a good house wife and mother. During the early 20th century and especially during the Great Depression, toys like these were passed down through generations. Luckily, this means that many early kitchen toy sets exist today.
Let’s play tea time!
The idea of playing tea parties with dolls and porcelain tea sets goes back to the 1600s. These cups and saucers are from the set displayed in our Lake Life Gallery.
Like today, often the design of children’s toys mirrored what was in fashion at the time. Ceramics depicting Japanese motifs were popular between the 1890s-1910s, dropping off in popularity after World War One.