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Children in Kansas, as around the world, have always enjoyed playing with toys whether they are miniature versions of items used by adults, cuddly copies of animals, or out of this world objects. Toys have been found in the earliest of civilizations.

Early toys were handmade of accessible materials like stone, wood, pottery, and leather. Marbles, balls, dolls, jacks and yo-yos were popular; some early toys were made with moveable parts.

Educational toys became popular in the early 19th century like building blocks, puzzles, and kaleidoscopes. Later in the century metal die-cast cars, trains, ships, trains, and even toy soldiers became popular. Puzzles became popular around the world, including mechanical ones with secret compartments.

Toys of the 20th century took advantage of new technology and materials like plastics and include Silly Putty, a synthetic rubber materials invented by mistake; Play-Doh, invented for use as wallpaper cleaner; Legos, colorful building blocks; Slinky, created as part of military research; fashion dolls; and toys spurred by the space race.

Children make such strong connections with their toys that they continue to collect them into adulthood.

The Kansas Museum of History’s collection of toys spans from early times to recent past. Some of these toys are hand-made. Others were mass produced and reflect the popular culture of the day, like westerns from the 1950s and early 1960s, space-related toys from the 1960s, and toys related to popular books and movies like Star Wars and Harry Potter.

Toy tipi Ceramic doll head Circus toy
Child's Tipi, 62.34.31 Ceramic Doll Head, 14EL301 Toy Circus Clown, 1954.68.81
Kansas Centennial Doll Toy garden tools
Toy Stagecoach, 1957.105.10 Kansas Centennial Doll, 1963.5.1 Toy garden tools, 1969.173.1247
Astro Captain
Toy train, 1970.1 Astro Captain, 1970.173.23.2 Toy metal cowboy, 1970.175.95
Robot Super Astronaut Mr. Patrol
Toy robot, 1970.175.473 Super Astronaut, 1971.57.39.20 Mr. Patrol, 1971.57.40
Toy Spaceship Prisoner Doll French Yerri doll
Toy spaceship, 1971.57.38 Prisoner Doll, 1972.153.1 French Yerri doll, 1972.56.31
Clockwork dolls Winnie the Pooh riding toy Toy kitchen
Clockwork dolls, 1972.13.78.2 and 1972.13.78.1 Winnie the Pooh riding toy, 1973.119.46 Toy kitchen, 1973.119.31
Mattel's Dream Car Timely Turnabout Toy Car Toy telephone
Mattel's Dream Car, 1975.101.5 Timely Turnabout Toy Car, 1975.101.6 Toy telephone, 1977.199.380
Doll House Living Room Doll House Bathroom Doll House Bedroom
Doll House Living Room, 1978.75.247 Doll House Bathroom, 1978.75.248 Doll House Bedroom, 1978.75.250
Ray gun Kermit the Frog Stuffed Toy Mickey Mouse Stuffed Toy
Ray gun, 1978.75.285 Kermit the Frog Stuffed Toy, 1978.75.381 Mickey Mouse Stuffed Toy, 1980.214.1218
Bus Chewbacca Street front
Bus, 1980.199.4 Chewbacca, 1980.214.552 Street front, 1980.383.121
Street front Ronald McDonald Gunsmoke lunchbox
Street front, 1980.383.121 Ronald McDonald, 1986.121.2 Gunsmoke lunchbox, 1987.29.1
Pinata Toy guitar Popeye Bubble Set
Piñata, 1987.83 Toy guitar, 1987.190.32 Popeye Bubble Set, 1988.139.13.4
Stuffed Toy Pizza Hut Pete Bank Dick Tracy Wrist Radio
Stuffed Toy, 1988.197.106 Pizza Hut Pete Bank, 1989.33.106 Dick Tracy 2-Way Wrist Radio, 1989.133.4
Batman toy C-3PO, Star Wars toy Star Wars toy
Batman toy, 1992.3 C-3PO, Star Wars toy, 1992.37.1 Star Wars toy, 1992.37.2
Han Solo, Star Wars toy Luke Skywalker, Star Wars toy Star Wars toy
Han Solo, Star Wars toy, 1992.37.3 Luke Skywalker, Star Wars toy, 1992.37.4 Star Wars toy, 1992.37.5
Smurf Steiff donkey Republican Elephant Stuffed Toy
Smurf, 1994.16 Steiff donkey, 1997.65.1 Republican Elephant Stuffed Toy, 1998.32.117
Hand-carved Pinocchio Hand-carved donkey and cart Snow Globe
Hand-carved Pinoccho, 1999.67.5 Hand-carved donkey and cart, 1999.67.6 Snow Globe, 2000.2.1
Time Tube Y2K stuffed doll Kansas cenntennial doll
Time Tube, 2000.3.1 Y2K stuffed doll, 2000.7 Kansas centennial doll, 2000.63.1
Victorian dollhouse Movin' Groovin' Crissy Doll Streethearts Doll
Victorian dollhouse, 2001.12.1 Movin' Groovin' Crissy Doll, 2001.68.15 Streethearts Doll, 2001.68.16
Assemblage Wyatt Earp puzzle Pull Toy
Assemblage, 2004.16.1 Wyatt Earp puzzle, 2005.68.8 Pull Toy, 2008.19.6
Handmade doll Harry Potter doll
Viewmaster, 2010.16.24 Handmade doll, 2010.27.1 Harry Potter doll, 2010.32.1
Ron Weesley doll Hermione Granger doll Autograph dog
Ron Weasley doll, 2010.32.2 Hermione Granger doll, 2010.32.3 Autograph dog, 2010.33
Dorothy Gale Barbie doll    
Dorothy Gale Barbie doll, 2010.68.15    

Entry: Toys

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: January 2016

Date Modified: February 2016

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.