Games People Played: A Century of Vintage Toys & Games

This entry is a blog-formatted version of my 'Games People Played' talk that I gave on November 19th. In case you missed my talk, the following YouTube video is a recording of the lecture. Below is the lecture itself, reformatted so that you may read about the detail of these objects directly. Additionally you will have the opportunity to view the objects that were displayed in the presentation in higher quality. I would like to thank everyone who attended the lecture, as well as you - the reader - for wishing to read about this topic I've written about. Enjoy!


Between the 19th and mid-20th century, both toys and games of all varieties have seen widespread popularity and even continued development. Some of these toys can be seen as precursors for what kind of toys would become popular as time has progressed. Within the Rogers Mansion, many toys and games have been gathered ranging from board games to mechanical stuffed animals. This lecture will discuss quite a few objects in our toy collection, exploring their history and how widespread they were, and their status as collectibles.

There are four main categories in which this lecture will group the following toys being discussed: Die-cast toys, Tin toys, Mechanical/Motorized toys, and finally Board games. Some of these toys and objects will unfortunately have much of their own personal histories lost due to unavailable maker’s marks and such, but exploring them is still vital due to their prevalence. Other toys will have a much more fleshed out history due to specific manufacturers being incredibly present during their time, with some companies still existing to this day. Subcategories in each case will be explored based on how much known history is attached to them.

Die-cast Toys:

Die-cast toys and models are abundant in the collection of the Rogers Mansion. Die-casting is based on the shaping of lead alloy or iron into that of recognizable objects and figures. The most commonplace die-cast toys during the early 20th century are scale models of automobiles, fire engines, air crafts, horse and carriage, and especially trains.

This is one of our horse-drawn carriage toys we have, which is one of many in the collection. It’s one of the simpler designed die-casts we have, as it depicts a single silver-painted horse drawing a black carriage. The horse is attached to the carriage via two thin metal bars hooked to the front. You’ll notice the horse is rather worn-down with its paint chipped off in spots, as well as the rear wheel of the carriage being a bit lopsided. This tends to be the case with these toys considering their age.

Here we have a horse-drawn wagon, a much more elaborate die-cast than the previous. We see a white horse pulling a yellow-painted wagon with a man as the coachman. More wear and tear can be seen here, what with paint on both the horse and wagon chipping away. Interestingly the rear of the horse is attached directly to the wagon as some kind of extension, with its rear and back legs being partially painted yellow. The man in the wagon also happens to be a separate piece, with its own rear having a peg that slots into a hole in the wagon seat. This was a common feature with these toys that had people being towed.

This is one of the most detailed horse-and-carriage pieces we have. In this piece, there are two black-painted horses towing an elaborate carriage featuring a coachmen and a rider inside. Not only are the wheels of the carriage painted red, but also the wheel that sits between the two horses, allowing the toy to be more mobile than prior toys. The coachmen is once again detachable, as well as the rider who is painted entirely red.

This die-cast is of an old ambulance that was contemporary for its time, painted entirely in white with the exception of the red cross on the side right next to the driver-side window. A few chips in the paint are also seen, as well as the white tires showing cracks all around.