Curator's Corner Blog

Tag Archives: toys

Happy Tax Day!

Since today is tax day, we thought it would be a good time to feature these banks from the collection ( in case, like us, you are wishing you had saved up a little more to pay the tax man).

The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula has a couple of interesting banks from different time periods.

Among the earliest are these two. This little elephant is made of cast iron and would have been painted when he was first put together. A seam runs down the middle, showing where he could be pulled apart to reach the saved pennies inside. Alas, he has gotten quite rusty over the years, and his two halves seem firmly stuck together now. According to our paperwork, someone found this bank while digging under their house, which would help explain his degraded condition.

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This bank below is a collection of gears and springs inside, which control the crank on top. You would insert a coin, turn the crank, and a number on top of the bank would flip over, helping you chart how many deposits you had made or how much money you’d saved (if you we’re putting in pennies). The bottom of the bank gives the date this model was patented – September 27, 1904.

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You might think these two cast iron banks are also late 19th or early 20 century, but you’d be wrong. These are pretty reproductions.

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Not being old doesn’t make them any less delightful, however – click below to see how they work:

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If only a dog did tricks when we deposited our paychecks…

A bank currently on display in the WWII propaganda exhibit takes a novel (and patriotic) approach – instructions that come with the bank say, “he’ll blast the axis with your loose change! Drop nickels, dimes and quarters in this Bomb Bank. Holds about $18.75. When loaded, break open and convert change into $25.00 War Bond at any post office or bank.” Made of paper mâché, the bank would have been easy to bust open, just like a little bomb.

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The last bank also has a mechanical element. This promotional piece for Collier’s Encyclopedia advises savers that “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Drop a coin in the bank every day to turn over the date, and, one assumes, after a year perhaps you will have enough saved to buy an encyclopedia! (The “Conscience Slot” in the back allows you to deposits without turning the date over so you can deposit more than one coin per day.)

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The cutest little kitchen you’ll ever see

When you’re little, it seems like you can’t grow up fast enough. All you want is to be able to walk by yourself to the ice cream store, drive the car, push the lawnmower. You just want to do what mom and dad are doing.

While researching the toaster post, we came across some absolutely darling toys from the 1940s that put at least one grown-up thing — cooking — in the hands of little ones. These tiny toys are sized for tiny hands. Too big for the doll house, they were clearly designed for children to make pretend cakes, pour pretend lemonade, mash pretend potatoes and saute pretend omelets.

These tiny kitchen items are in the collection of the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula.

Surveying these kitchen tools gives us a good sense of what the late 1930s / early 1940s kitchen looked like. There would have been a standing mixer, a pop-up toaster, and a hand-held egg beater. Mom might have done the ironing in the kitchen, too. (We’ve noticed fold-down ironing boards in the kitchens of older Missoula homes.) Perhaps in the fridge you had a glass dispenser that contained punch, lemonade or iced tea for those hot afternoons in July and August.

Collection of the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula. 1997.0003.085

This lil’ mixer, one of our favorite items in the group, ran on battery power. An old Everready is still in the compartment. Collection of the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula.

Baking is a great entryway for children into cooking (kids love sweets!). Kid-sized cookie cutters shaped like a gingerbread man and a chicken attest to the fact that 1940s kids would have been making cut-out sugar cookies, too.

Many of these toys seem to be more than just play things — they are smaller, working versions of the real thing. A child could stand on a stool next to his or her parent and help beat eggs, turn silver-dollar pancakes, and mash potatoes, with tools that fit in a child’s hand.

The toys were donated by three sisters who grew up in our region, and the dings and scratches on each miniature appliance or utensil reflects how much they were clearly loved.

Did you ever “play kitchen” when you were growing up? What were your favorite toys?