Toy collection



Offline Only


A collection of toys dating from the 1800s to the current day, supplemented by photographic material including early twentieth century portraits of children and their toys.

The collection primarily consists of children’s toys dating from the early 1800s to the current day. The toys include well-loved rag dolls and teddy bears, tin-plated model cars, buses and trucks, working toy boat models, dolls furniture, beach toys, board games and puzzles, rocking horses, tricycles, souvenirs and shipboard games. The collection ranges from locally handcrafted wooden toys to internationally mass produced tin-plated, corgi and matchbox model cars. The collection contains dearly loved childhood companions with rich stories such as a toy train given to a ten year old boy on the day his family escaped the Nazi invasion of Vienna in 1938, and a set of Chinese handcrafted dollhouse furniture brought back from the Boxer Rebellion in 1901. Not simply demonstrative of childhood leisure pursuits, the collection also includes toys used by health nurses in the mid twentieth century to assess childhood development. Similarly, toys for ‘grow-ups’ feature in the collection and range from serious collector items such as the 1929 Clockwork Golden Arrow model car, to shipboard entertainment games such as coits and deck board racing games. The collection is supplemented by photographic material including early twentieth-century images of returned soldiers working in an Adelaide toy factory, approximately twenty studio portraits of children and their toys dating from the 1920s to 1940s, and fifteen images of a toy display at the 1943 Royal Adelaide Show showcasing locally made stuffed dolls, teddy bears, wooden trains and rocking horses.

This is an important collection relating to childhood play and toy culture in South Australia. The collection also represents the shift in toy manufacturing from the early cottage industries, through to local manufacturing and eventually to the mass-produced and marketed world toy trade.

A History SA collection. Collection items are held in various locations and access is by appointment only.


1800s; Children; Collecting; Current day; Home life; Leisure; Material culture; Play

Baby toys; Beach toys; Childrens books; Dolls; Educational toys; Electric toys; Nautical toys; Novelty toys; Promotional toys; Pull-along toys; Puzzles; Ride-on toys; Soft toys; Teddy bears; Tin toys; Toy aeroplanes; Toy blocks; Toy furniture; Toys

History SA, South Australia; Migration Museum, South Australia; National Motor Museum, South Australia; South Australian Maritime Museum, South Australia

Coverage Spatial

South Australia; Adelaide; Australia


2012-05-30 23:43

2011-05-02 15:08