Once Upon a Time

By Karen Parr-Moody



Years ago I had a friend who bemoaned the fact each Christmas that he never got a toy train set as a child. He was a businessman, so at the annual party he hosted for his company he always had a captive audience for his tale of the missing train set.


I couldn’t decide if he hoped someone would buy him the train set or if it was just his strange of humor.


I had him in mind recently when I saw the many toys of childhood at GasLamp and GasLamp Too. Many of us have an affection for such toys that leads to our collecting them as adults.


This W. H. Goss baby mug, of tapered form, is decorated with a charming cat (photo, right; $225; B-172). It follows the cat's reaction to a wasp — hence the words “Contemplation,” “Investigation” and “Exasperation” are printed around it.


W. H. Goss were products once made in Stoke on Trent in England by William Henry Goss. By the 1880s, his firm had entered into the niche market of producing seaside souvenirs for the popular destinations in England. These pieces were actually copies of Greek and Roman pots and vases that were printed with crests and coats of arms designating each town. Collectors would travel to the various sites to gather an entire set. Within a few decades, many Brits displayed W.H. Goss items wherever they had bric-a-brac in their homes.


I know a man who owns a historic home in Springfield and keeps a collection of silver baby cups on three shelves in his kitchen. Wouldn’t it a collection of small W.H. Goss mugs look similarly stylish?


This Hubley “Puppo” bank on a pillow is an unusual find (photo, left; $230; W-408). It has a bee on its cast iron haunches and a sweet stance. It was designed by the Grace Gebbie Drayton, who was famous for designing the Campbell Kids illustrations that were used in the ads for Campbell's Soup beginning in 1905. About a decade later, the Hubley Mfg. Co. began making these “Puppo” banks. If you examine it closely, you will see the face of this dog has the same wide-eye innocence that is possessed by the Campbell’s Soup Kids.


Cars, planes, boats, trucks and circus animals all of these and more have been created since the mid-1800s from tinplate (thin sheets of steel plated with tin). Prior to this time, most toys were made of wood. Once tinplate toys hit the scene, they became objects of wonder for children in the Western world. Until World War I, they were painted by hand. Afterward, the application of chromolithography made it possible for intricate, multi-colored illustrations to be printed onto the toys (photo, right; toys, $15 to $35; all at S-545).


Celluloid was an early plastic that American inventor John Wesley Hyatt created out of chemically modified cellulose in 1870. (It was marketed more successfully than earlier attempts made from similar materials in England). People were amazed by this product that was used for everything from billiard balls to hair combs; it was first used as a replacement for ivory.


Celluloid soon became a material used in doll making — as in the case of the “national costume” Dutch duo in the photo, left (doll set, $18; B-172). It replaced materials such as fragile bisque, china, papier mache and wax.


The nostalgia surrounding toys is understandable, and such gifts — whether bought for oneself or for someone else — are a wonderful choice for reviving such nostalgia. In the booths at GasLamp and GasLamp Too, many treasured toys can be found, whether in the form of tin toys, doggy banks or the celluloid dolls that some child of yesteryear must have loved receiving.




Print this page