Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Wishing for Coal in Your Stocking

The Queen, a cast-iron and tin baby stove from 1915, burned coals or wood in its belly, while this lime-green metal toy stove from 1930 plugged into the wall. Both stoves had open burners, just like Mom’s.

These miniature stoves, part of a big collection of housekeeping toys at the Strong National Museum of Play, are relics of a sweet spot in history: Children were special enough to merit the production of tiny play versions of everyday objects, but parents hadn’t yet begun to worry obsessively over their everyday safety.

Production on tiny stoves ceased during WWII, as materials became scarce. By the time the Easy-Bake Oven, which used a lightbulb as a heat source, came out in 1963, the era of easy access to hot coals was over.

Rebecca Onion reports on toy stoves at The Vault, Slate's "brand-new history blog." There are 150 objects to look at inside the housekeeping toys link. How many have you played with?

24 Comments / Post A Comment

The Lady of Shalott

This is related to one of the topics of my Master's thesis, and I LOVED LOVED LOVED checking out ads and ideas for children's toys of the First World War. I especially liked the "homemade fireworks" bit of the kids' section of the paper. Shit, they didn't even warn the kids to be careful!


wow that was so crazy i like it@y

fondue with cheddar

I want the Step2 Retro Diner!


@fondue with cheddar Right? And maybe also the entire Zoodleland set. And definitely the automatic ironing machine. I'll take my chances on anything called an automatic ironing machine.

fondue with cheddar

@TheLetterL I want this one for real, grown-up sized.


@fondue with cheddar But did you see the blue one!

fondue with cheddar

@Elsajeni I did! I almost posted a link to that one too, but I didn't want to go overboard.


My parents had a cast iron toy stove lamp when I was a kid. As in, a table lamp that had an old-fashioned stove complete with tiny pots and pans as a base. I thought it was the coolest thing ever and used to play with it all the time until eventually my mother took it away and made it disappear. I never thought about it, but I bet you could have loaded it with miniature coals... Now I wonder if it was really a lamp or I just mistook the chimney for something else.


All the best toys are the dangerous toys. My uncle once bought my sister and me a chemistry set that, when used properly, had the potential for making things explode. My dad was psyched, my mom not so much. It was awesome.


Oh, so this museum isn't in my country. I see. *sulks*


@Verity (I want to visit it! Stupid distance.)


@Verity I might go HERE http://www.museumofchildhood.org.uk/ for a UK alternative... Also, if you happen to be in Paris, the Doll Museum is fucking terrifying/brilliant/scarring.

Priscilla Peel

Tiny coal-burning stove! It reminds me of the one that Jo gave the girls in Little Men.


@Priscilla Peel I know!! This was my first thought! I finally know what it looked like, now I understand why were the children so thrilled in the novel, who wouldn't??

baked bean

aaaaahhhhhhhhhh I love tiny things! I would play with this stuff now! So cute!

baked bean

@baked bean I wish they had measurements. I have trouble telling if some of these things are doll-sized or kid-sized.

baked bean

@baked bean GUYS LAWN DARTS WERE BANNED IN 1988? Those were our favorite toys at Grandma's house! No idea they were no longer for sale and we were special for having a set.


@baked bean My favorite dangerous toy was sky dancers. Basically a barbie with wings that you would spin to make it fly. My sister and I would launch them at each other and end up with massive bruises. It's amazing we're still alive. Also clackers. Nunchucks for kids. Actually it's amazing any of us are still alive.

baked bean

@Pyxis OH yeah, those were awesome. They came out with robot-looking boy ones that my brother got (he liked to play with my fairy ones) but they didn't work as well so he went back to playing with the fairies.
Yeah... I feel like getting bruises from them is a user error.
Our problem was always getting them stuck on the roof of the house.

Getting hurt while playing (you know, in non-severe ways, like bruising or minor burns) I think is fine, it's part of learning.


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