You have entered the Museum Of Yesterday's galleries containing 19th and 20th Century artifacts depicting "Life in America." Enjoy your visit, and see if you recognize any old "friends" from your past.


Please note that our antique toy collection also contains many model railroad accessories from the 1930's through the mid 1950's. Those items are in our Railroad gallery and can be see on our Railroad History Page.

A working steam engine and boiler plant by Jensen Toy Company

The 20th Century was a time of astronomical growth and technological discovery in America. As we entered the era, such inventions as the electric light were just coming into use in the average American home. By the end of the same century, man had gone to the moon and beyond, conquered many deadly diseases, built machines that could emulate and even exceed the capacity of the human brain, and introduced technology that could unite people though Radio, Television, and finally the Internet.

Much of the technological development came about as the result of two great world wars that occurred in the 20th Century. As technology evolved, a scientifically aware generation of children know as "Baby Boomers," became the target of the toy manufacturing industry. Science and engineering found their way into everyday toys to capture the attention of a generation that now demanded toys that moved, talked, and worked just like the products they emulated. Following World-War II, we saw the evolution of realistic toys such as electric trains, chemistry and science toys with real working microscopes and science components, dolls which cried, talked and emulated real babies and children, and finally toys which taught the mysteries of electricity and physics.

Today, many professionals who grew up in this era, owe their initial interest in their later careers to these high-tech toys of the 1950s. The toys displayed in this gallery are just a sampling of what was on the Christmas list of most "Baby Boomers" back in early to mid 20th Century.

This 3" high engine was made by a Nineteenth Century machinist apprentice in New Orleans. Apprentices were required to demonstrate their skills by building tiny working models of large-scale equipment on which they would be working.
Operating Steam Engine by Graham Industries of Rio Rancho, NM
Mamod Steam Tractor (working steam model that is fired on alcohol) made by the Mamod Tractor Company of Great Britain
Wheeden #42 Steam Engine and Boiler unit has electric heating element.
Another authentic working steam engine engine toy from the DeMajo collection. This "beam" type engine, of the design pioneered by inventor Robert Fulton, was manufactured by the K.J. Miller Company of Chicago, IL. .
This recently acquired, very early toy steam engine and boiler was made in the late 1800s. The toy is typical of pre-1900 engine toys in that it has a lamp oil burner built into the base. Later toy engines used alcohol or solid fuel pellets made from organic material. The toy workes perfectly today even though it was manufactured approximately 125 years ago.
1896 German made toy drill press sold as accessory for antique steam engines.
(A full line of these miniature machine tools were sold in the late 1800's as modeler's tools)
A collection of mini-shop tools designed to be run by toy steam engines, .
This promotional toy was inspired by an early 1950s television program called The Kraft Television Theatre. As the program credits rolled, this little fellow also rolled back and forth across the camera field. Audience interest in the little cameraman soon grew to the point that the Kraft Foods Company licensed the toy as a mail order premium. You can see a short clip of the actual video by clicking the image of the toy above. For the baby-boom generation, the Kraft Cameraman is now a sought after collectible reminder of those carefree years in Post-War America.

Another period toy that saw the height of its popularity in the 1950s, was the VIEWMASTER® manufactured by The Sawyer Company. This stereo-optical slide viewer toy based its design on the 1800s Stereo Opticon, which allowed the viewing of dual, side-by-side photographs on a hand held wooden eyepiece. Sawyer refined the design by offering a convenient bakelite viewer with dual lenses, which allowed the viewing of circular slide holder reels. Slides were positioned so that each eyepiece showed the same scene for any given slide, giving the effect of stereo optical viewing. The Viewmaster also provided a lever that could be used to advance the slide reel one slide at a time. During the post-war through 1960 era of popularity, the company offered hundreds of titles for their slide reels including landmarks, great art work, and many interesting photographs from around the world.

Shown below is the museum's antique 1890 stereo opticon, fore runner from which the 1950s View-Master idea was born.


Roy Rogers and Dale Evans

Just as the children of today have entertainment industry idols upon whom they look, our "baby boomer"generation had it's share of stage and television heroes too. While today's youngsters idolize the likes of Britney Spears, Lady Gaga and Lindsay Lohan, our generation's heroes were the champions of the "American Way," rather than exploiters of the media. One such role model from television and screen was Roy Rogers, who along with his real-life wife Dale Evans, demonstrated that even shoot-'em-up "wild-west" cowboys could be good, upstanding citizens. Roy and Dale were devout Christians in their private lives, and they fostered and supported numerous orphaned and disabled children and performed extraordinary charity and missionary work. In the 1950's the Roy Rogers Double-R-Bar Ranch became a symbol that appeared on every imaginable toy from rocking horses to children's lunch boxes. Shown below is a trademarked child's riding horse that was manufactured in the 1950's under license from the Roy Rogers producers. It is an image of "Trigger," Roger's famous horse during most of his motion picture and television career.
(Thanks to Ellyn Orth-Meier for the donation of this "Trigger" to the museum collection)
A rare carved wooden horse from an 1890s "flying horses" carousel.
Another rocking horse toy from the post-war era.
A simple but popular toy, during the first half of the 20th Century, was the "marble." While this game was being played as far back in history as 4000 BC, it seened to gave reached a universal peak in the 1950s. Vairious designs, usually eminating from the Far East, were sold in bags of various quantities. The game of "Marbles" was played by using a shooter marble to "shoot" staged marbles out of a circle. The player who managed to shoot the other player's marble outside of the circle, while having their shooter marble remain inside the circle, was awarded the other player's marble.
The 1950's saw the release of a flood of scientific and teaching toys. The parents of the "baby boom" generation had disposable income in the Eisenhower years, and toy companies saw an opportunity to tap the market with toys for the children of this post-war technically literate generation. Toys in this era were no longer "pretend" gadgets. Real working chemistry sets, microscopes, radio and electronic kits, and sewing machines that really sewed, joined the ranks of tear crying and diaper wetting dolls, flyable model airplanes, and even crude digital computers.
This 1950s REMCO crystal radio kit is a classic example of the beginning generation of "tech toys" that flooded the U.S. toy market in the post war years. REMCO, like A.C. Gilbert, Porter Chemcraft and others, led the production of a line of scientific and technological toys that peaked the interest of the country's future scientists and engineers in the Post WW-II "baby boomer" generation.
In the 1950s, scientific toys became increasingly popular with America's science aware youth. Companies such as A.C. Gilbert, REMCO, and Philmore Radio Company began the introduction of a long line of science and educational toys that captured the nation's toy market for many years. Shown above is an assembled Philmore crystal radio kit that allowed the owner to construct a working AM radio from a box of parts. Later entries into the science toy market included chemistry and microscope sets, electronic gadgets including a crude digital computer on a breadboard, as well as model planes, boats and robot toys that responded to radio control devices.
Much of the demand for scientific toys in the 1950s and 60s can be attributed to one person. "Watch Mr. Wizard," an extremely popular television series of the 1950s and 60s created by educator and television pioneer Don Herbert, was responsible for many "Baby Boomers" interest, and eventually their careers, in the fields of engineering, science and medicine. In the program, Herbert, who held a degree in science and was a decorated WW-II bomber pilot, performed live scientific experiments, in his television "laboratory," usually in the presence of young guests who often assisted in the scientific processes. Mr. Wizard's experiments were designed to give grade school and middle-school age students, a basic understanding of the science and physics involved in every-day life. Herbert remained active in education and science through media until his death in 2007.

One Wikipedia quote that best describes Don Herbert's work is as follows: "Herbert's techniques and performances helped create the United States' first generation of homegrown rocket scientists just in time to respond to Sputnik. He sent us to the moon. He changed the world."
With a new awareness of science, brought on by the avalanche of post war scientific development, science related toys such as chemistry sets, microscope-biology kits and physics oriented educational tools filled the toy market. These were the boom years for companies like A.C. Gilbert, Porter Scientific and REMCO toy makers.

An unused and near mint condition A.C. Gilbert Chemistry Set.

The set contained real chemicals including such ingredients as Sodium Cyanide. In today's "nanny state" children would not have been allowed within 100 feet of such a toy. Our generation was fortunate not to have had those restraints, and many of today's chemists and scientists got their first taste of real science from toys just like these.

Handy-Andy Builder Set was a toy that provided real working tools. Children could work, right along side Dad in creating their own woodworking projects. This company also sold companion books with project plans that could be constructed with the toolkit.
Another toy introduced in the 1950s was the model airplane. What started as nonfunctioning plastic and wood scaled models of popular military aircraft, usually built from kits, soon evolved into a serious hobby involving working, flyable planes. Many young fathers who had been pilots in the two recent wars, saw this as an opportunity to introduce their sons and daughters to the art of flying, without the necessity of having a full-size plane available.

By the mid 1950s, war-time remote guidance technology had been adapted to allow small radio-control receivers and servo-motors to be placed in planes so that they could be piloted by remote control devices on the ground. Shown above is a recently acquired 1950s vintage reciprocating engine designed to power a large model aircraft. Like its full-size counterpart, it boasts remotely operated mixture and throttle remote controls for in-flight adjustment, and is capable of developing approximately a quarter-horsepower. These engines operate on specially blended fuel that is comprised of Methyl Alcohol, Nitro-Methane, and caster oil for lubrication. The engine in the photo is presently undergoing complete restoration in our museum machine shop, and will be on display in our 20th Century toy collection.

Toy makers didn't ignore little girls either. Just as the boys had toys like dad's, their sisters had "toys" just like Mom's!

In addition to realistic looking dolls and doll clothes and accessories, toy manufacturers began the manufacture of clild-size working appliances, and household items, easily removable makeup and toiletries, and doll scale furniture. This Bissell "Little Queen" carpet sweeper (shown above) is an authentic and working, child-scaled version of Mother's popular Bissell "Queen" hand operated carpet sweeper of the 1950.

The Museum has recently acquired this 1890s actual working Casige toy sewing machine.

Singer, and later other machine manufacturers, produced working models of their sewing machines, often with the same standards of quality as their full-size adult machines. This was a marketing strategy to introduce and accustom little girls to appreciate the products that the company offered, as they sewed doll clothes on their own little machines right beside Mom at the family's full-size Singer. The strategy was quite successful, and many young girls and women from that era formed life-long relationships with the products of companies such as Singer, White, Brother, and Casige.

The image below is of another recently added antique Singer child's sewing machine, which is also capable of actually sewing a respectable stitch. This toy dates to the late 1800s, and it's quality also rivals the adult machine from which it was copied. It is interesting to note that while machine styles changed, and technical improvements were made over the years, toy sewing machines remained popular from their inception in the late 1800s until well into the 1970s. No other single toy has enjoyed such a successful a run of almost a century of popularity.

Manufacture of toy sewing machines only began to phase out when the popularity of home sewing began to fade in favor of stylish foreign made clothing that could be sold at extremely reasonable prices. By the late 20th Century, as women became heavily involved in the work force, most women had discontinued making their own clothes in favor of store-bought clothing.

The 1950s was a time for the production of realistic dolls and doll accessories..
Stylish but simple dolls for stylish little girls of a by-gone era. The next generation of children would come to love dolls that cried, moved, ate, wet, and even talked thanks to elementary electronics that had become available to toy makers in the late 1950s.
And of course who could forget those lovable Campbell's Kids "Roly" and "Poly" from Campbell Soup Company.
The 1950s were a great time for sponsors of radio programs to offer simple toy inducements to their customers. Cereal box tops, jar lids and the like became the payment that would enable a child to receive these "official" toys from their favorite food and drink manufacturers, and such toys were usually associated with the radio programs they sponsored. While there were many of these types of toys in circulation during the era, one of the most popular, and collectable by nostalgic baby boomers today, is the Ovaltene Captain Midnight Secret Squadron Decoder badge (shown below) which the museum has recently added to its collection.

This next item is not an authentic antique from the collection. It is a project that the museum put together to illustrate, to our young visitors, what kinds of educational electronic toys were available to kids of the mid 20th Century. We didn't have computers, I-Phones, or video games in those days, but we did have very instructive educational toys. One such toy was a "build-it-yourself" one-tube AM radio kit that was marketed in 1956-57 by the home TV service division of Radio Corporation of America. The toy was marketed through the local field technicians who made TV repair house calls in those days. If a tech on a service call stumbled across an inquisitive child who wanted to know more about how the family TV worked, the tech would attempt to sell the parents a "Junior Technician Prep KIt" as it was called.

The one-tube, battery powered working radio came in a cardboard box that doubled as the case for the finished radio. The full-fledged "grid leak detector" circuit was then assembled by the aspiring young technician, on a provided piece of peg board and using screws and binding posts. Power came from relatively safe 45 volt and 1.5 volt batteries which were included with the kit.

As a child, your museum director received one of these Junior Tech Prep Kits thanks to my grandmother. Unfortunately, the radio, which I cherished very much, was lost in the Katrina flood of New Orleans in 2005. Recently, I saw a picture of a similar radio and I decided to recreate the set from currently available parts, so that today's visitors could see an example of the educational toys that spurred our interest in electronics and science back in those early days. Below are some photos of my completed kit, along with some borrowed photos of an actual 1950's kit that was sold on EBAY.

Above: a mint condition, never used 1929 A.C. Gilbert Erector Set that had been given as a gift to a university president / engineer in West Virginia. Shown below, is an original Gilbert Erector Set magazine ad from the 1930's. From the 1920s through the 1960s, A.C. Gilbert toys were extremely popular with scientific minded children and their parents. In addition to the popular Erector Set line, the company also produced such items as chemistry sets, microscopes designed for children, and model train accessories. In later years, as electronics and computers became the focus of science minded children, the Gilbert firm introduced a line of excellent "electronics" experimenter laboratory kits as well.


Tinker Toy® Construction Sets are the invention of Charles Pajeau, a stonemason from Evanston, Illinois who established The Toy Tinkers company. Inspired by watching children play with pencils, sticks and empty spools of thread, Pajeau developed several basic wooden parts which children could assemble in a variety of three dimensional abstract ways. He designed his first set in his garage, and with high hopes, displayed the toy at the 1914 American Toy Fair. But nobody was interested. He tried his marketing skills again at Christmas time. He hired several midgets, dressed them in elf costumes, and had them play with "Tinker Toys" in a display window at a Chicago department store. This publicity stunt made all the difference in the world. A year later, over a million sets had been sold. Playskool acquired the Tinker toy® line from Child Guidance in 1985.

Note that "Tinker Toys," like so many toys of our generation, contained small parts and pieces which could be dangerous by today's standards, yet there are no records or reports to be found of any child being severely injured by these extremely popular toys.


This lithographed metal clad toy music box, made by J. Chein and Company of Burlington, New Jersey, was very popular in the Christmas season of 1948. When cranked, it produced a reasonably realistic sound of a church organ. The toys are now extremely valuable collector's items since they tie to the Baby Boom generation in the post-WW-II period. The museum has searched for years to find an example that works and is in good condition. Only recently were we able to locate this prized addition to our collection.

Interestingly, while this metal toy with it's small wooden handle and questionable paint composition, brought many hours of pleasure to the children who were lucky enough to get one from Santa, (which includes your museum chairman,) there were no reports of children dying or being severely injured by it. In today's "Nanny State," however, the government and the trade "watchdogs" would never allow this painted metal toy to be sold as a child's toy.


Another familiar sight to many "baby boomers," is well represented in the museum's toy collection. Numerous first edition "Little Golden Books" printed by the Simon and Schuster Publishing Company between 1940 and 1955, are housed in our library. The original run of Golden Books for children presented hand illustrated stories containing valuable "life lessons" for children. Typical 1940's stories from this literary treasury, were based on the themes of honesty, hard work, perseverance, and the premise that even the most insignificant people can have a positive impact on society.

This book collection was actually in the DeMajo family since the mid 1940 era, having been purchased new in the post war years for the DeMajo children. The entire collection has been passed down through the family for over sixty-five years, an is now a treasured part of the Museum Of Yesterday historic book and document collection. .

In addition to the line of Little Golden Books, many children's story publishers offered specially arranged phonograph recordings for children. These were often nursery rhyme and classical music scores what were set with familiar words that could be appreciated by children. In that same late 1940-late 1950 period, manufacturers of non-electronic "acoustic" children's phonographs were still producing such products as this child's first phonograph by Vanity Fair Manufacturing Company. (Hint: To hear a sanmpling of a 1950s chirlren's record, turn on your speakers and click on the picture of the phonograph below.)
1930's cast iron gum ball dispenser was a familiar fixture at the doors of neighborhood businesses in the pre-War years.
In the years following World War-II, this Ford gumball machine began to find its way into businesses and public places. The machines would dispense a handful of gumballs when a coin was inserted and the handle was pulled. In the post-war years, the machines could be operated for a just a penny. As time went on, however, the cost increased to a nickel and then to a dime. Today, the modern equivalent of these machines dispenses gum or candy for 25 cents, and some machines even dispense plastic rings and small toys for as much as 75 cents. A far cry from the penny bubble gum machine that most baby boomers remember as children.
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