Child's Play
By Karen Parr-Moody

Toys capture the imagination of children and adults alike, whether they are the simplest of wooden creations or the most complex of dollhouses. For shoppers seeking a bit of whimsy, GasLamp Antiques and Decorating Mall is sprinkled with antique and vintage toys that are a dreamer's delight.

Most young girls dream of being a princess. But it was a queen — Queen Mary of England — whose cousin gifted her the dollhouse of fantasies, designed in 1924 by esteemed architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. It is thought to be the most beautiful dollhouse in the world. It includes fine details, such as the canopy bed draped in silk and tiny oil paintings in the King's Bedroom, seen in the photo, above right.

Queen Mary's dollhouse — now on display at Windsor Castle — was built with toilets that flushed, working elevators, marble floors and six automobiles that actually ran. Even its wine cellar included tiny bottles of actual vino. It also included a 171-volume library of short works, some written exclusively for house by famous authors such as  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling and Edith Wharton. Can you imagine?

A thorough search through the halls of GasLamp will yield quaint miniatures for any dollhouse that, while not fit for a queen, would certainly be lovely in most of our homes. For the dollhouse that simply needs its own chapel, these darling chairs and pulpit in the photo, left, would be absolutely charming ($10; W-412).

The "whirligig" is a toy that, while having ancient origins, got its current name from Middle English. During the 15th century, "whirlen" was a the word for turning quickly around and around and "gigg" was a top. It was at this time that the two words were first put together to describe the child's toy. Whirligigs were depicted in various European artworks of the era, including "The Magician" and "The Mender of Bellows," both by Hieronymus Bosch; each shows a little boy holding such a toy. 

The vintage, folk art whirligig in the photo, right, is certainly a charmer ($85; Booth B-1005). The sailor boy's shirt says "Nantucket," and even if one is landlocked, this whirligig would bring some salty sea air into a room.

The tin Marx train in the photo, left, is a four-piece model loosely patterned on a real Union Pacific Railroad streamline diesel train that was introduced during the 1930s ($75; Booth B-2010). While it is a bit rusty, the lithographed tin art remains colorful and beautiful. Such toys have been created since the mid-1800s from tinplate, thin sheets of steel plated with tin; they joined children's exiting toys that were made of wood. Until World War I, tinplate toys were painted by hand. But the application of chromolithography made it possible for intricate, multi-colored illustrations to be printed onto them.

The marionettes of Pelham Puppets — such as the girl and boy in the photo, below right — were originally created in 1947 by the late Bob Pelham of Yorkshire, England (girl puppet, $30; boy puppet, $40; both at Booth B-236). Pelham was in active duty during World War I; during this time, he made small donkeys that moved via a spring mechanism. Because of such origins, his puppet company was originally called Wonky Toys Limited. The first puppet was called Sandy McBoozle and other puppets followed. Wonky Toys Limited changed its name to Pelham Puppets Limited in 1948.

Toys have long brought joy to children of all ages. And vintage toys enchant the shelves of at GasLamp, romancing collectors today just as they did during their original era.

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