Museums and Resources Toy Enthusiasts Events and Conventions
Faire Tyme Toys
Have you ever wondered about the first toy? How it came to be? What it was? Many
people have often wondered about just that: I have seen numerous posts and been
asked about those very questions many times.
Take a moment here to relax gently and close your eyes and think of two things.
First off, picture a monkey sitting on a branch of a tree playing with a stick. Then,
think of the beginnings of man. The beginning of man as the way you and your
religion believe it was. Many people have different beliefs but that is all right.
Still keeping your eyes closed, imagine yourself as one of the first men or women
walking around on that first day. This may be the day after the creation of man as
seen in the Bible, or it may be the day (if it was indeed possible to pin point it down
to a day) that man first could be called "Man" instead of "Ape". But it was indeed a
day many, many thousands of years ago!
I believe that on those first days of existence that a man or woman picked up a
small stick and played with it just like that monkey you imagined playing on the
branch of that tree. Or picked up a stone or a piece of bone to throw it at an animal
but suddenly realized how much fun it was to do that and threw it again just for the
fun of doing it.
And suddenly in a flash the first toy was born. It could have been a stick, stone, or
bone thrown in the air. Or a man, woman, or child looking at their image in the
water during those first days as this new character called man. But, as old as things
like the Eskimo game so similar to cup and ball, or toys like tops, or dolls are, they
are thousands upon thousands of years younger than these first toys that men,
women, and their children first played with.
But, these first toys did indeed signal the beginnings of the playful side of man that
would exist until this very day. This beginning was the beginning of our modern
toys and games that we play with so much. Both as adults and children. And yet
think how often someone comes up to the edge of a small lake and skips a stone
across that flat water today. Possibly using that same small stone that our ancient
As you read through Dr. Toy's time line you might want to think about the different
toys described and how they really started as that first simple stick, or stone; bone,
or pool of cool, clear water; so many years ago.
Men, women, and children have all loved to have fun with toys since their very
beginning. And probably always will.
Dr. Toy's time line gives us an idea of how this all came together. To form our
modern toys of today. It is even possible that if we all (young and old) took time to
play with these old original toys that this old world would be a much better place
Classic Toys Still Made Today
These classic toys first introduced years ago are still produced today.
An ancestor of chess begins to be played.�It evolves from an Indian game
called Chaturanga.�In the 15th Century, modern chess pieces were finally
standardized.�The queen and bishop pieces acquired the powers they hold
A Babylonian board game was probably an ancestor of chess and checkers.
First game resembling backgammon is played in Ancient
Samaria.�Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans had played games similar to
backgammon for thousands of years.�Stone marbles are first used in
Egypt.�Glass marbles were popularized in the United States in the 1800s.
Egyptians begin to play a game that resembles modern-day checkers.
Egyptians made dolls from string, fabric and paper.
The first iron skates are used in Scandinavia.
Kites appear in China.�They have probably been flown since before recorded
history.�Stone Yo-Yos begin to be used in Greece.
Playing cards begin to be used in Asia.
Joseph Merlin introduces roller skates.
Playgrounds begin to appear in American cities.�The idea stemmed from the
efforts of city reformers who were searching for more healthful play options
for children in urban areas, where parks and yards were scarce. The
playgrounds started off as "sand gardens," inspired by those seen by an
American social worker while visiting Berlin.�Financed by local businesses,
city playgrounds soon included swings and seesaws.
The first American doll maker is granted a patent and dolls begin to be mass-
produced in America for the first time.
Salem, Massachusetts native S.B. Ives develops "The Mansion of Happiness,"
the first the first commercially produced board game in the United States of
A westernized version of the Indian game Parcheesi is introduced in England
under the name "Ludo."�Parcheesi remains the oldest continually marketed
American toy that dates back to 300 A.D.�
Alphabet Blocks become favorites and help children learn their alphabet the
Margarete Steiff notices a pattern in a magazine for a toy elephant and
makes a few to give as gifts.�She went on to sew a bear, a poodle and a
donkey.�Margarete's stuffed animals proved so popular that she was able to
turn her hobby into a business.�Since then, Steiff bears, with their jointed
arms and legs and trademark metal button in their left ear, have been
treasured the world over.
Three young brothers begin making high-quality wooden toys in Osby,
Sweden and the BRIO corporation is born, taking its name from the BRothers
Ivarson of Osby.�Wooden Figure-8 Train Sets are introduced by
BRIO.�Peter Reynolds began distributing BRIO toys in the United States in
1977.�More than 3.5 million trains, cars, and trucks have come off BRIO's
assembly line, the largest wooden toy manufacturer in the world.
The first BB gun is created.�Made for children, it scares many parents
because it is actually a working gun that can cause injury.�The BB gun is a
descendant of the cap gun, which was invented soon after the Civil War,
when some shotgun manufacturers converted their factories to make
toys.�Penny pistols and other authentic looking toy guns also began to
appear in the 1880s.
The speaking doll, which had first been invented by Johann Maezel in 1820,
is improved when Thomas Edison combines his phonograph technology with
a doll, allowing it to speak.
Mah Jongg was named for a Chinese word meaning "sparrow," originates in
the Ningbo area of China.�Games like Mah Jongg had been played as long
ago as 1800.
The Flexible Flyer sled is introduced.�It is a wonderful sled, largely due to its
extraordinary craftsmanship.�The sled handles superbly, due to its patented
Australian native Lawrence Hargrave invents the first three-dimensional kite.
Gund introduces the first mass-produced musical toys and soft toys.
At just 22 years old, Joshua Lionel Cowen creates a battery-powered train
engine as an "animated advertisement" for products in a store's display
window.�To his surprise, customers are more interested in purchasing his
toy train, than the merchandise in the display.�Lionel Trains began.
In America, toy bears begin to be called "Teddy Bears" after President
Theodore Roosevelt.�In only a few years, Teddy Bear-mania sweeps the
world and by 1915, large-scale toy bear manufacturing is in full swing.
Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith produce the first box of Crayola crayons.
Strombeck-BecKer is formed. In the years to follow the company becomes
Strombecker Toys and a powerhouse in the toy manufacturing world.
Former Olympian (Gold, Pole Vault, 1908) and medical doctor A.C. Gilbert
invents the Erector Set, a motorized toy made of steel parts.�Children use
the parts to build models of everything from ferris wheels to skyscrapers.
Charles Pajeau develops a toy similar to the Erector Set, but designed for
younger children, called Tinker Toys.�Watching children poke sticks into the
holes of thread spools inspired Pajeau.
Eagle Rubber starts to manufacture rubber toy balloons.�Children like to
play with this item for a couple of reasons.�The hopping itself is a fun way
for children to improve balance and coordination while developing their gross
Johnny Gruelle, a newspaper cartoonist, begins to sell Raggedy Ann dolls
based on one he had made for his daughter, Marcella. Visit the Johnny
Gruelle Reggedy Ann & Andy Museum.
John Lloyd Wright, the son of architect Frank Lloyd Wright invents Lincoln
Logs, interlocking toy logs children use to build imaginative
structures.�Wright was inspired by the way that his father designed the
earthquake-proof Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Japan.
Louis Marx was a young man with visions of mass marketing and mass
production.�He ventured out to begin a toy company.�Joined by his brother
David a couple of years later, Louis Marx & Company grew to become the
world's largest manufacturer of toys in the middle of the century.�It has
evolved into a "classic" toy staple of the 1990's.
Jack Pressman creates a play doctor's bag when his children are afraid to
visit the doctor.�His company becomes the largest manufacturer of classic
games, selling more than 25 million checker sets and 15 million chess and
Chinese checker sets to date.
His wife, Daphne, and his young son, Christopher Robin, inspired A.A. Milne
to write the poems and stories of Winnie the Pooh.
A tough, durable kind of plastic, polystyrene is invented.�Although the first
plastic, celluloid, was invented in the 1860s, polystyrene is the first type
strong enough to really suit toy making.
Walt Disney creates the Mickey Mouse character.�Two years later, Charlotte
Clark began making stuffed Mickey Mouse dolls, and Disney merchandising
The Yo-Yo is popularized in the United States after entrepreneur Donald
Duncan sees the toy being demonstrated in Los Angeles.�Duncan buys a
small Yo-Yo company for $25,000 and 30 years later, sales of Duncan Yo-Yos
reach $25 million dollars.
Stacking Rings are introduced and remain a classic toy today.�The five
brightly colored rings on a stack allow babies to place them in any order they
wish.�There are many different combinations that help improve baby's eye-
Alfred M. Butts, an unemployed architect from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., invents a
word game called the Criss Cross Game.�In 1948, Butts sells rights to the
game to entrepreneur James Brunot who trademarks the game under the
Ole Christiansen, a Danish toy maker begins to manufacture toy blocks with
a new twist.�Christiansen creates a plastic brick that can be locked together
in different configurations.�The Lego, which comes from the Danish word
meaning "play well," was born.�Six bricks fit together in 102,981,500
Sorry! is introduced as a fun and easy way to bring friends and family
together.�The object of the game is to be the first player to get all four of
the pawns in your starting color into that color's home.�The CD-ROM
version, produced by Hasbro Interactive, has pawns that slip and slide
around the board, taunting and teasing the other pawns along the way.�
Monopoly is introduced with its real estate based on Atlantic City's street
names.�During the first year on the market, Monopoly was the best-selling
game in America.�And over its sixty-five-year history, an estimated five
hundred million people have played the game.�
William Gruber, a piano tuner from Portland, Oregon, has the idea of mass-
producing color 3-D images in a viewer.�Introduced before television
becomes widespread, View Master is an immediate hit.
Affordable, detailed model airplanes begin to be mass-produced.�Originally
designed to help manufacturers sell airplanes to the military, they begin to
make practical toys with the introduction of plastic.�Before plastic, models
were made with balsa wood provided in kits.�Otherwise, consumers had to
cut their own wood pieces to fit a provided pattern.
Little Golden Books begin delighting children and parents of all ages.
While searching for a suspension device to ease rough sailing on battleships,
navy engineer Richard James discovers that a torsion spring will "walk" end
over end when knocked over.�James brought the discovery home to his
wife, who named the new toy "Slinky."�If stretched end to end, the Slinky
toys sold since 1945 would wrap around the world more than 125
times.�Slinky's are still made in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, on the same
eight machines that James began with over 50 years ago.