Playful Plans's blog

A free-range discussion of wooden playthings, their design, fabrication, history, and dissemination.

The Ginger

Our friend Ginger Hutto was delighted to see my vintage battery-op boat "Ginger" on a visit to Edisto Island. Alas, when it was powered up on the blackwater canal, it only ran... backwards! Oh well. Read on!


Remember these?

From the collection, a few of my table and board games from the Golden Era. My favorites are the ones with wooden parts.

The Stratego example (10th down from the top) is much sought-after with the original wood pieces, replaced by plastic shortly after the game was introduced in 1961. The RISK set was purchased in mint unplayed condition, we loved it growing up and still do!

A Swiss mystery?

From the collection, a beautiful vintage (mid-modern) marble game of striking design and unknown manufacture. It's the only one I've seen. I'm sure there are more as it is a manufactured toy and not a craft example.

Three wonderful block sets

From tiny to a whole lot bigger, these vintage sets provide the building blocks of creative play for people of all ages (3 & up).

The smallest is stamped MiNi BAUKASTEN (Construction Kit) and labeled LOQUAI W. Germany (now ID'ed as LOQUAI HOLZKUNST) and is composed of mostly solid parts with a +2mm plywood sliding top and fixed (glued) plied bottom.

Takraw, anyone?

From the collection, a near-mint boxed Takraw Game Set by Sportcraft. The patent was registered on September 15th, 1959. Billed as the "New Game Sensation" it was very popular in the 60's in our Chicago neighborhood and beyond.

A fine English balance clown

From the collection, here we have a handsome balancing/action toy purchased from a contact in the UK.

Signed "U. Pulford" in ink, this toy's classic form and elegant fabrication from quality materials are emblematic of English small-shop traditions of the early 20th century.

Once spun, the figure traverses the bars in slow loops and then rocks back and forth for up to five minutes!


An elegant handmade pedal horse

A favorite of mine in the collection is this splendid riding horse, monumental in appearance at a modest height of just 23"!

Her condition is battered and bedraggled, but as with all successful designs that doesn't detract a bit from her exceptional charm. The carved initials and obvious repairs are reminders that this was once some child's well-used dream steed.


Pedal horse

The REAL Lincoln Logs

First marketed in 1918, John Lloyd Wright’s Lincoln Logs remain one of the most iconic (and copied) building toys in history. From the collection, here’s the real thing from- yes- Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, John.

A bit of background. John Lloyd Wright, Frank’s second son (b. 1892) achieved his own measure of architectural success in spite of his father’s domineering interference.

Is Play Fun?

Not always. Sometimes- usually- play is hard work.

My brother Steve in our Chicago apartment backyard, ca. 1953. I'm not sure if he got hit by a buddy's snowball or is just having an attack of the crankies.

"People tend to forget that play is serious."  David Hockney


Journal: The Toy Tinkers of Evanston

Classic American wooden toy manufacturers from the early 20th century can essentially be counted on two hands. Okay, three or four.

But just one of them introduced a new product in New York City at The American Toy Fair in 1914 which flopped- and within a year, sold over one million units of the new Tinkertoys.

Image courtesy Richard Mueller, Jr.

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