Children’s Toys of Bygone Days

Guillotine toy-French revolution


Guillotine children’s toy made during the time of French revolution (ca. 1794), from the book: Children’s Toys of Bygone Days: A History of Playthings of All Peoples from Prehistoric Times to the XIXth Century by Karl Grober, published in 1928 by B.T. Batsford ltd.

“..the nineteenth century it was the custom in Italy to tie a string to the leg of living birds or big cockchafers and give them to children as a toy to play with. The custom was so universal that we even see such living playthings represented in the hands of the Christ Child, especially in pictures of the Italian Renaissance. A curious example of a similar kind was to be found among the usually so simple and harmless German toys, as a Nuremberg catalog of the eighteenth century proves (image bellow). These were comic figures with space inside to hold a bird which in its struggles gives to the figures all kind of motions. As the catalog says: ‘No one would imagine that a living bird was inside, but would suppose that it was clock-work which made the head, eyes, and beak of the bird move.”



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2 thoughts on “Children’s Toys of Bygone Days

  1. Toy theater has seen a resurgence in recent years among many puppeteers , authors and filmmakers and there are numerous international toy theater festivals throughout the Americas and Europe.


  2. sort of fails the PC test of current times…but fascinating – especially since the figure is already sans head [or did that come as an optional extra?]


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