Part 1 – My Top 10 List of Games and Toys in History (1 through 5)

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I have in the past weeks written on the place of games ("My Top 10 List of Books, Poems and Films that Feature Games”) and toys (This Time It’s Toys; My Top 10 List of Stories and Movies that Feature Toys in culture and the arts").

This time, I have listed what I see to be the ten most significant moments for toys in history.  I have based it  upon how they impacted and / or were impacted by history.  They are in no particular order and I have broken the blog into two parts.  I have listed 1 through 5 today and 5 to 10 in my next posting.  Please give us your feedback.  What have I missed and what should I have left out?  So here you go:

1.    The Football (Soccer) War

Football-warIn 1969, Honduras and El Salvador went to war over a soccer game.  The war lasted about four days and really involved some deeper issues.  It was, however, rioting over a series of soccer games between the two countries that pulled the trigger. 

 2.    The Teddy Bear  

Teddy Roosevelt unintentionally created a multi-billion dollar business and some great snuggling for kids when he refused to kill a bear tied to a tree during a hunting trip in Mississippi.  The picture had excellent political implications for Roosevelt and enhanced his reputation as a lover of freedom and defender of the defenseless.  The press picked up the story and political cartoons began appearing showing Roosevelt refusing to kill a cute baby bear.  The Ideal Toy and Novelty Company saw the potential and with Roosevelt’s permission produced “Teddy’s Bear.”  The rest is (ahem) history.

 3.    Faberge Eggs

Undoubtedly some of the most famous toys in history were the Faberge Eggs.  Peter Carl Faberge was a goldsmith with a gift for beautiful design.  He was known for making miniature Easter eggs out of rare metals and precious stones.  Tsar Alexander III had Faberge create an Easter egg for his wife which she so adored that Faberge went on to create 65 in all.  The eggs are not just beautiful but many have tiny doors with miniature crowns and other elements hidden within.  Many of them still exist and five can be seen in Richmond Virginia at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

 4.     Boris Spasky Bobby Fisher Chess Match

ImagesThe late Bobby Fisher is best known today as a complete nut.  In 1972, however, he was America’s great young hope in defeating Boris Spassky, one in a long line of Russian World Chess Champions.  The Russian government put a great deal of money behind assuring its Chess dynasty so when Fisher defeated Spassky the match took on political overtones.  Fisher's victory was therefore seen seen as the lone American defeating the giant Russian system. 

 5.     The Playing Fields of Eton

The Battle of Waterloo was the decisive British and Austrian victory over the French that ended Napoleon’s reign in France and the terror he inspired in Europe.  The Duke of Wellington, who led the British forces, is said to have made the statement that: "The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton."  Eton was and is a noted private school in which sports play an important role.  Wellington was in essence saying that it was playing games in youth that gave the students as adults the discipline and tactical genius to win at war.  If Wellington did indeed make the statement then it is probably the most significant praise that play has ever received.

In my next posting, nunmbers 6-10.

2 thoughts

  1. Hi Richard,
    Fascinating blog post, particularly the associatioon of history of England (and the world) with a school playing fields. Those must be the most influential real estate in teh world!
    Play has evolved to give animals, including us, the ability to be able to function well as adults. That play has been trivialised is a tragedy, it should be universally held up as the best thing a child can do! Exams will get you nowhere without play, arguably without play you will fail at exams anyway.
    Play is completely necessary for the cognitive development of the juvenile brain. But people don’t understand that because they forget that fun can be beneficial.
    My own game, the Culica, is fun, and also I make no apologies for saying that it will make kids – and adults – smarter. It does puzzle solving and competitive play and both nurture creative thinking and the latter develops social skills too.
    To me Wellington, if he said that, was telling the truth!
    I would add that play is the engine of all history.

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