1 LONG BEFORE LEGO

The 'Le Parc' child’s toy, a construction set for making a suite of garden furniture, was manufactured in France around 1910. The only instruction provided for its assembly was the illustration on the box. The card and paper components are joined together by tiny batons of lightweight timber. The only clue to the manufacturer are the initials on the box – A.M.-P. – but the company made several other ‘constructions’, including the Paris metro, the Eiffel Tower, a merry-go-round, a zoo and a mechanical tram.

2 GARDENING FOR CHILDREN

The garden year with Mr. Bear was ‘published for Australian kiddies’ in Sydney in early 1938 by Arthur Yates & Co, self-described as ‘Australia’s greatest seed house’. It features beguiling vignettes of green-thumbed Mr Bear sowing flower seeds, planting onions and putting up netting for sweet peas. Some illustrations are printed in colour; others are in black and white for children to colour in. Each page of text subtly promotes the publisher’s product – vegetable seeds, flower seeds, bulbs, shrubs, trees, and Yates’ garden guide – while providing simple instruction in seasonal planting.

3 COLOUR-LINE CUTTING 

Les enfants s’amusent is a 78-piece jigsaw manufactured by Parker Brothers Inc of Salem, Massachusetts, around 1910. An early example from their range of ‘Pastime’ puzzles, this particular jigsaw was retailed in Paris through the Anglo-American Games Company. Parker Brothers’ early puzzles were cut from wood and made up of irregular and only semi-interlocking pieces. One or two figural pieces, in this case in the shapes of a spanner and a wheelbarrow, were usually included. Parker’s puzzle-cutters cut out the pieces along the major colour divisions within the image, known as ‘colour-line cutting’. This made it difficult for puzzlers to recognise which pieces of different colours fitted next to each other, and there was no guide picture on the box to help.

3 October 2014 - 27 February 2015

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