I got the travel bug at an early age. A week prior to family vacations, I packed my suitcase with the essentials. When we weren’t traveling, I wrote detailed lists advocating for the next vacation. This summer, I have no travel plans and I’m disappointed; however, I take pleasure in reliving some of my recent adventures through the souvenir collections at The Strong’s National Museum of Play.
1. Greetings From Maine
Museum founder Margaret Woodbury Strong loved to vacation in Kennebunkport, Maine. Last summer, I visited Bar Harbor, Maine, to hike, eat fresh seafood, and write postcards. Today’s travelers often keep in-touch through email or Facebook pictures, but for me there is nothing like a handwritten postcard. The Morgan Envelope Factory developed the first American postcard in 1873. Originally, people used postcards as a way to send quick notes—think 19th-century “text” messages. Advertisers of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago used the first souvenir postcard to market the event, and more than 100 years later postcards remain a popular novelty. The sender of one humorous postcard managed only to write, “Letter rec’d. Glad you feel better.” Sometimes, senders thought the pre-printed message said all the right things. This summer, as my friends travel, I ask the mail carrier to please look and see if there’s a letter in her bag for me.
2. Snow in New York
For my sixteenth birthday, my parents took me to see the Phantom of the Opera in New York. After the performance, as we stepped out onto the sidewalk, snow fell gracefully to the streets. The snow globe captures this experience for me. Snow globes first appeared in 19th-century France. In the early 1920s, Atlas Crystal Works produced many of snow globes first made available to American consumers. Soon American collectors marveled as the snow fluttered around the ceramic figures in the center of these glass domes. Manufactures used bone chips, pieces of porcelain, flakes of sand and sawdust, and occasionally gold foil to create the snow. Now, companies use small pieces of white plastic to create the tranquil snow scenes. Several snow globes from the Iris F. Hollander November Collection at The Strong’s National Museum of Play remind me of the serene New York cityscape I saw years ago. With just one shake, I want to be a part of it, New York, New York.
3. Cable Car Rides
In 1869, Andrew Smith Hallidie witnessed a horse-drawn streetcar slide backward down a slippery cobblestone street in San Francisco. Five horses died in the accident. Hallidie decided to use his father’s patented wire-rope technology to devise a safer mode of public transportation. A few years later, the Clay Street Cable Car line started public service. It’s strange to think that I rode a cable car through Fisherman’s Wharf more than a century later and still no women possessed enough upper body strength to control the grip and brakes. In 1998, Fannie Mae Barnes became the first female to land the job of grip operator. I will never possess the strength for such a position, but I can play the part with a model kit. In 1967, Hawk Model Co. released their San Francisco Cable Car Model. The kit comes complete with colorful decals, including a Pepsi Cola logo, and a street and rail display sign. All aboard!
Souvenirs invoke feelings of nostalgia and memories. Historians even point out that Alexander the Great sent home caravans loaded with souvenirs from the Mediterranean countries he conquered. No matter what your travel plans are this summer, be sure to find a keepsake, or if, like me, you have no travel plans, check out more of National Museum of Play’s souvenirs collections to reminisce about trips past.