Period Pipe Piper

Marge Bucholz has been collecting and reproducing period toys during 12 years of Civil War re-enacting.  The point of demonstrating toys was to catch the attention of children.  If they stop to learn something, then the parents will stop too.  Many of the toys are simple in design, such as the basic tops, buzzsaws, stilts, and cup-and-ball along with wooden folk toys reproduced from library books, but others, such as the stereopticon are more complicated. The collection has taken an odd direction with the addition of light and vision toys which are the forerunners of television and movies.  All were popular long before the age of video games and battery-powered toys. She has about 30 different kinds of toys to show, such as Jacob’s Ladder, checkers, Graces, and marbles. “I’ve tried to keep true to the materials wherever I could—wood, cardboard and paper,” she said, “but one toy I have only found in plastic and I haven’t had time to reproduce it in wood.”   The toys are mostly hand made.  “I explain what they are and how they work and tell any stories I might know,” she said. “Then I hand them off. I have no problem with anyone using them.  When I do school events, the kids are amazed these things don’t have batteries, no electric plugs, no screens. They can’t imagine they are having fun and are not plugged in.”  She does not talk much about games that were played in the 19th century because they were often “pretty wild.” "I have a reproduction of an 1859 “Boys Book of Games,"  she said, “and parents are horrified when they read it"  Many children today do not know how to play with the toys enjoyed in the past. “Kids don’t know how to play marbles anymore,” she said. “They know what they are, but not how to play.”  But the old games had one thing in common—most required more than one person to play.  “A lot of games today are so solitary,” she observed. “You play against yourself or an unseen opponent on the Internet. There is no face to face interaction, whether that is good or bad is open to question.”  

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