Playing Our ABCs

Playing Our ABCs

According to author Barbara Beatty of Preschool Education in America: The Culture of Young Children from the Colonial Era to the Present, the concept of using toys as a way to teach children began as early as the 1500s and 1600s in England and Germany. However, the popularity of educational toys took off in the late 1800s in the US when commercial exhibits to promote kindergarten materials were included in the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. The exhibit brought kindergarten learning toys to the attention of homemakers attending the exposition. Recognizing a growing market, industrial toy makers began adding a learning element to their existing kindergarten building block sets by applying beautifully illustrated ABCs paper graphics on the them and other merchandise like the train pull toy in this exhibit.

The reverse side of this abacus teaches arithmetic. It belonged to the donor’s mother, Mildred Grace Sheaffer (b. 1917) who was from Huntsdale.
Gift of Carol Allan

Doll and Animal ABC Blocks
Each of the thirteen wooden cut out pieces of the Schoenhut Alphabet set has a character printed on paper of an animal on one side and a girl on the other. This set was given to Mary Jane Webb Ployer Cooper (b. 1924) in 1925 by her grandmother.
Gift of Mary Jane W. Cooper

ABC Pull Toy
Given to him by his father, James Steinmetz (b. 1919) played with this “Chicago Limited Vestibule Train Inter-Ocean” pull toy with alphabet/puzzle blocks.
Gift of James F. and Miriam Steinmetz

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