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The History of Pull along Toys
The History of Pull-along Toys. Go right back to the beginning of civilised man. Children would have played hide and seek, played pretend fights and imitated their parents by throwing sticks as spears and throwing stones up into the air. (the origination of Jacks or five stones). They used the materials found around them to play with. These games were for amusement and to develop the strength and skills necessary to survive as hunter gatherers. We can only guess how these young children played as no toys from this period have been found, nor cave paintings recording children at play. Today, play is a basic instinct of the young of most animals. Imagine a father pulling along a large bundle of firewood with a length of vine or strip of leather. His small child is tired, so he sits the child on top of the bundle of firewood and drags them both home. An older child sees this and copies their father dragging friends around the camp, perhaps having races. Instead of pulling friends around, they put stones on top of bundles of firewood (or a handy logs) and play a game of who can pull the heaviest load over the longest distance. The fathers watch them playing and then use the idea to transport heavy objects. Heavy tree trunks could be used to build bigger and better shelters for the camp. By the time of the Stone Age (8000BC), stone axes were made that could cut tree trunks into logs to be used as a high fence around the camp to stop hungry animals from attacking them. Small sharp stone knives could be used to make simple toys and games, but nothing remains as they have rotted away. The first recorded use of wood cut and shaped into an object was an Egyptian mummy case found in a 6000 BC tomb. By 5000 BC, it was recorded that wooden rollers were used to move heavy objects. Now it is quite possible that rollers and wheels were first used in toys. In 2 recent historical landmarks the toy was invented first. A toy steam engine was demonstrated in Hyde Park (London) well before Stephenson constructed the ‘Rocket’. Powered flying model aeroplanes were sold in Paris and one was bought by the uncle of the Wright brothers when they were boys. Many years later, in 1903, they made the first powered flight. In 4000 BC clay was first used for making bricks and pottery in Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Sumeria (Iran). Now, for the first time, we have a material which will withstand the ravages of time. Many examples of clay toys have been dug up giving us a record of the toys used by children thousands of years ago. The potters job was to make figures for ritual or ornamental purposes and it would be natural for them to make small clay toys looking like their own pet animals. Their children would push them along the ground and it would not be long before somebody tied a piece of vine onto the toy and pulled it along. It would be simple for the potter to make small solid clay wheels and fix them onto the clay animal with bone pins. So we have the first Pull-Along Toy. Was this the first use of wheels. By the time of the Copper Age 3000BC, solid wooden wheels and axles were used. There are records of 2 and 4 wheeled carts pulled by Oxen and Asses in Sumeria in the period 3000 - 2750 BC. Many model carts have been dug up. The period of the Egyptian Pharaoh’s 3100 - 30 BC has left a large amount of information on how adults and children, both rich and poor, lived and enjoyed their leisure time. Wood was a very scarce material in Egypt and only highly skilled craftsmen could work with it. So wooden objects were only for the rich. Examples of their toys have been found in tombs inside the Pyramids. By 2000 BC the Egyptians could make furniture accurately using mortise and tenon joints held together with dowels and glue. The siege of Troy was ended after 10 years in 1250 BC when the attacking Mycenaenans tricked the Trojans by getting them to pull a large wooden horse into their city. The Trojans thought the horse was a gift, but unfortunately for them, it was full of Mycenaenan soldiers. The horse was on wheels. a giant pull-along toy. Small models must have been made of it. The Egyptians made wooden animals with moving parts. 2 examples from 1300 BC have been found; A mouse with movable jaw and tail and a cat with movable jaw, bronze teeth and crystal eyes. During the Bronze Age in 1000 BC, Carts and chariots were made with metal wheels rotating on fixed axles. By the time of the Iron Age 0 AD, the Egyptians were turning wood on foot operated lathes to make furniture legs. The Roman Empire fell in 476 AD. After the Golden Age of the Greeks and Romans came a period called the Dark Ages. During this time many towns and villages were burned and sacked by marauding soldiers. There are few written records with no reference to toys of the period. Although the children of this period would not have had the luxuries of previous times, they still would have played with toys. It is a basic instinct. By the start of the Middle Ages, there are records of toys and toy makers. It is thought that William the Conquer brought toy soldiers to England. War games were part of the education of the young of the rich nobility. Many 13th century models of knights on horseback have been found made of clay and tin. No pull-along toys have been found but there is a drawing of a hobby horse on the edge of a French Psalter c1300AD. Hobby horses would have been popular as their fathers would often be on horseback. In an 1520 illustration of a nursery, a wooden 4 wheeled babywalker is shown. By the 16th & 17th centuries, toys have become a large industry with toys exported from Germany to the rest of the world.
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