Victorian Christmas Toys

Victorian Christmas Toys
San Francisco Call, December 1902, p. 21

‘This year’s Santa Claus is the most prententious fellow that ever made a speedway of roofs or shot the chute of a chimnes flue. Time was when he satisfied himself with a doll that was small enough for you to throw across the room when she was naughty. An ordinary wooden hobby horse did very well then, one that teetered back and forth in a motion never known to living horse. But these things are of the past and belong to an earlier Christmas.

Nowadays Santa Claus goes in for toys that are such close copies of nature that you have to look twice to tell the difference. His dollies, in this merry season of 1902, are as big as you, too big for you to take liberties with. You could no more fling them across the room in a rag than you could fling mamma or your own sister. […] They are so bulky that you can’t lift them easily until you are too big to play with dolls. […] The smartest little-girl doll of the season is an immense blonde, with the most beautiful ringlets. They fall in masses over her plump shoulders. They are long and flaxen and they look exactly like the ringlets of the princess in the storybook.

Victorian Toys: Race course and doll carriage
Iron race course & doll carriage (Annual catalogue of staple fancy goods, novelties, Christmas presents, French and German toys, 1871)

She is so big a little, girl that the real live little girl whom Santa Claus shall choose for her little mother will hardly be able to carry her. They will be about of a size. And heavy – dear me, what a load she will be for that same small mother. It will develop her muscles even to lift her into the bed or the buggy. […]

It is nothing nowadays for a dressed doll to cost anywhere from twenty-five to a hundred dollars. A large doll alone is worth ten or twelve dollars, without mechanical attachments. If she talks, sings, walks, cries or dances, so much the more must be expended on her. It is certainly odd to pay extra for a cry – with a human baby you would be glad to pay extra for the lack of one – but in a doll this is considered an accomplishment. […] Sometimes she is  bought already equipped with such a wardrobe a Paris belle might look at with envy.

Victorian Christmas Toys Macy's
Shoofly, doll’s go-cart, daisy express wagon, “winner” auto, rifles, hockey skates, roller skates, India rubber elephant, white poodle & doll’s house (Macy’s Christmas Gifts Catalogue, 1906)

All sorts of furnishings for her home can be had in the smart toy shops. Her bed must be of white enamel and brass, just like the bed of the young lady who owns her. These little beds are made to fold, so that little mamma can carry them to any room in the house where it is convenient to “play dolls.” The bed, to be complete, must be furnished with every article from the mattress all the way up through daintiest linen sheets, warmest and snowiest blankets, fluffiest down comforter, to the ruffled counterpane and pillow cases. […]

Her buggy, too, is as elaborately furnished as her bed. In the first place, it is quite as elegant as that belonging to baby sister. It is made of rattan and tinted, as larger buggies are nowadays, either white and gold or the fashionable green. Its parasol is a flounced and frilled affair of white lace. […] The little girl who wheels it is almost lost behind the towering affair. […]

The little girls of his world are not the only ones that this year’s Santa Claus will remember […] Look at the Rough Rider outfit in which Master Gordon Osborn posed and then ask if Santa Claus has forgotten you. This Rough Rider costume is one of the treasures that he has stored away in his sack. It is complete from broad hat to the straps of the boots. There is even a cartridge-belt. […] Toy guns are being made more like the real thing every year, so much so that there are fears for the family safety. If the young hero of the family cares to indulge in a buffalo hunt Christmas will provide the buffalo as well as the horse and the gun. The buffalo are perfect minatures of the live animal. They are covered with long brown shaggy hair and they moo gruffly. Some have been made to run by means of a sort of automobile within them.

Victorian Toys: Fire Truck
Novelty toys: Hook and ladder & fire patrol (Macy’s Christmas Gifts Catalogue, 1906)

The horse is arranged on a kind of spring which causes him to move with a galloping motion, wonderfully like a live animal. […] Hobby horses are not what they used to be, absurdly shaped and spotted, but they are formed like a thoroughbred and colored like nature. Horses cost as much as twenty-five dollars many a time. Besides the horse for you to mount, there are mechanical toy horses that are to be wound. There is a wonderful little trotter hitched to a sulky. The animal can be wound so that he will trot with an approved gait and cover the ground fast enough to please any true sporting man.

Even the old toys are improved in countless details this year. The drums are louder, the mechanical ships sail faster. […]The toys of this season are so wonderful that they are interesting grown people as well as small ones. They are remarkable displays of mechanical skill and invention. The children may be seen drawn up in line in front of the toy counters in all the big stores, and the parents and relatives and guardians are behind them trying to look indulgent and superior, but as a matter of fact they are observing with delight right over the tops of the small heads. “I’ll be jiggered if I don’t want that trotting horse for myself,” said a papa the other day. Perhaps if he is good Santa Claus will bring him one, too.’ (San Francisco Call, 1902)

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