I had the privilege to once again visit the Strong National Museum of Play and its wonderful archives. It was a rich experience as not only were the artifacts great but the people with me were as well. We were led by Chris Bensch, Vice President for Collections at the Strong, and I was accompanied by Caroline Schwarz-Schastny, the great-great granddaughter of F.A.O. Schwarz; Barbara Isenberg the Founder and CEO of The North American Bear Company and Rebekah Kaufman a Steiff consultant, archivist and blogger.
Here are some of the things that fascinated me. I am sure my companions would have made different choices but, well, it is my blog:
One of the fascinating artifacts for me was the "Zippy Zepps Air Game." Manufactured 1n 1929 by the Alderman Fairchild company, it is aesthetically beautiful while at the same time unintentionally ironic. There are places you can land your zeppelin in the game that cause you to lose a turn due to engine trouble. A troubling premonition of the eventual explosion of the Hindenburg over Lake Hurst, NJ ten years later.
Speaking of creepy, on a shadowy shelf in the archives sits a toy electric chair. I'll repeat that for you: "A toy electric chair." It comes under a heading the Strong has created: "What were they thinking?"
Continuing with the creepy I was struck by the visual impact of the "Atomic Bomber" arcade game that had just been acquired by the Strong. There is no picture available of the Strong artifact yet but I did find an image from another collection which you can see above.
And then there is the Edison Talking Doll. It was marketed in, are you ready for this, 1890. It was a fascinating piece of technology that featured a small record player inside the doll. The voice was way too creepy and the dolls were returned. Here is a link to the original sound recording made in 1888. Once you hear what sounds to me like a poltergeist reciting Twinkle Twinkle Little Star you will understand why people brought them back for refunds to places like FAO Schwarz in droves (see below for ad I found online).