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A Jubilation Of Toys

July 2024
1min read

Battered with play, they nonetheless retain all their old Christmas-morning power to charm and entrance

Children’s toys are appealing for much the same reason that children’s drawings are appealing: they are strong, simple distillations of the adult world. Bright, crisp, and spirited, the best of them appeal to the child in every grownup. The examples here are from the superb collection of Bernard Barenholtz. Himself a successful toy manufacturer, Barenholtz was naturally drawn to the products of his nineteenthcentury counterparts; when he found himself getting up at 5:30 A.M. to make sure of getting a particularly desirable tin Santa Claus, he knew he was a confirmed collector. It was no small task. By 1880 America had more than 170 toy manufacturers, producing tin riverboats and steam locomotives, cast-iron acrobats and trotting horses, windup carrousels and wooden villages —a whole civilization in miniature. Barenholtz’s success in tracking down the relative few that have survived the ravages of play and time is reflected in the pictures on these pages, taken from his book American Antique Toys, 1830-1900 , co-authored by Inez McClintock and published this season by Harry N. Abrams, Inc.


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