Archives of Ontario: Toys from the late 1800s

A doll and other toys amid the rubble of a destroyed house. Ball games tend to be good exercise, involving lots of physical activity and are popular worldwide. With toys comprising such a large and important part of human existence, it makes sense that the toy industry would have a substantial economic impact. In 2005, for example traditional toy sales in the United States totaled about $21.3 billion. Money spent on children between the ages of 8 and twelve alone totals approximately $221 billion annually in the U.S. Toy makers change and adapt their toys to meet the changing demands of children thereby gaining a larger share of the substantial market.

Miniature versions of indoor quoits were played near the Welsh-English border for at least a century. It seems that the game was invented toward potato head ears the end of the 19th century, but the history of indoor quoits is not really known. “Deck quoits” were made from rope and used on cruise ships.

Stuffed rabbits, dogs, and horses were very popular options, and yes even bears. But did you know that they weren’t called teddy bears until 1902? A toy shop owner in Brooklyn named his stuffed bears after then-President Theodore Roosevelt, whose nickname was “Teddy.” If any of the King children had stuffed bears, they would not have called it a teddy bear. Today, we think of Hopscotch as a children’s game, particularly for girls. The game of Hopscotch is featured in “The Boy’s Own Book” by William Clark, first published in 1829.

They can be donated via many charities, sold at garage sales, auctioned, sometimes even donated to museums. However, when toys are broken, worn out or otherwise unfit for use, care should be taken when disposing of them. Before disposal of any battery-operated toy, batteries should be removed and properly recycled or disposed of as outlined in your community. Placing toys in recycling bins can contaminate recyclables due to the unknown materials used. Most communities will ask that small toys be bagged and disposed as municipal solid waste with normal collection. Large toys such as outdoor playhouses and ride on toys can be treated as bulk waste.

The next time you play pick-up sticks, you will know that you are having fun just as children in ancient times did. Opponents send gaily beribboned hoops whirling towards each other to be caught on the tips of slender wands in this exciting and elegant sport. The game of Graces was considered both proper and beneficial exercise for young ladies in the early 1800’s and it was proper as well for boys to join in as a “lark”. When toys have been outgrown or are no longer wanted, reuse should always be considered.

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