Toys: Photography

Figure 1.--This American Daguerreotype shows some of the toys children played with in the mid-19th century. The Daguerreotype is undated, but we would guess the 1850s. This is a quarter plate size daguerreotype of three children. There is a wooden puppet held by the boy at right. It appears to have a case. The boy at left holds a wooden horse. The girl in the center holds a small wooden swan.

Photography beginning in the mid-19th century has left us a fascinating record of the toys children played with. A great deal can be learned from these photographs and the tous the children are photographed with. Unfortunarely, we can not always tell that the toys depicted are actually the childs toys. We can be more sure with the family snapshots of the early 20th century.

Toy Choice

Boys throughout the ages have become very attached to their toys. Often when they were painted or photographed they have liked to pose with their favorite toys. Sometimes other props were used, but it is likely that the boys generally preferred their toys. In many instances the toys are studio props which the photographers used to help pacify the children while taking their portraits. Here usually we can not tell just from the photograph.

Victorian Toys

Interestingly, the development of photography roughly conicided with the Victorian era and the development of modern attitudes toward toys and child rearing. Toys which date to ancient times were not a creation of the Victorian era, but toys appeared in great profussion during the Victorian era than ever before as parents attitude toward children's play changed.

Toys and Gender

This tendendency of children to pose with their toys is extremely helpul in identifying the gender of younger children. Boys until the 1920s were commonly outfitted in dresses when younger and many had long hair. Thus it is often difficult to tell if younger children are boys or girls. The props they hold, such as their toys, while not fool proof, can be useful in determining the child's gender. Children holding sports equipment, balls, toy soldiers, guns, and other boyish toys are usually boys. Children photographed with dolls or baby chairages are probably girls.


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Created: 3:12 AM 11/4/2004
Last updated: 3:13 AM 11/4/2004