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Home > Virtual Village > Virtual Tours > West Springfield Through the Eyes of the Day Family > Children's Toys

Children's Toys

The children of the Day Family witnessed and preserved the changes to West Springfield and their home. Eighteenth and nineteenth century kids may have had lots of chores, but they still had some time left to play. This section of the exhibit highlights some of the toys that children in the Day House (and generally, kids in West Springfield) may have played with.

Toys, for boys or girls, in the 19th century offered a learning opportunity for them. Rocking horses, oxen pulling carts, and toy hunting sets represented the farming, husbandry, or hunting challenges a boy might have to face as they grow up. For girls, dolls, cradles, and toy kitchens represented the domestic challenges they would face. These toys prepared them for their adult life and, while for the average family these toys were modest, they represented an important part of a child’s upbringing.

Children in 19th century rural New England had far fewer toys than a modern child. Children's toys would also have overwhelmingly been homemade, which makes some of the toys from our exhibit unusual for their time.[1] These toys feature a precision of details that would have been rare un an average household.


Doll sitting in a chair, Josiah Day House Collection, circa 1860s.

This doll is a nodding head ceramic doll with a blue dress, red & white gingham apron, and seated in a rustic wooden chair with a rigid body. The doll has bent legs and bent arms that move at the shoulders. The head is on a wire that nods when touched.

When fine tin-glazed earthenware and porcelain became widespread in the nineteenth century, their use was no longer restricted to making tableware and decorative vases. They were also used in certain types of toys, as seen in this doll.


Doll chair, Josiah Day House Collection.

This doll chair is made of iron with an open work back. The back and seat are one piece, and it is red with a black frame.

Cribbage Set

Metal cribbage board on wood block with small storage compartment for 4 metal pins, Josiah Day House Collection.

Cribbage was invented in the 17th century and derived from the preexisting game "Noddy." Cribbage gained popularity with sailors and spread throughout the British empire as sailors brought it wherever they went. Cribbage is a card game, usually for two players, with a board used for scorekeeping.[2]

Marble Track

Red & green wooden marble track, Storrowton Village Museum Collection.

Clay marbles are the most common old marble found today. These marbles were the easiest to produce and millions still exist. Clay marbles were made in both Germany and the United States. It has also been reported that clay marbles were used as ballast in the keels of ships that sailed to America from Germany. Clay marbles are usually found in their natural tan color, but they may also be dyed, red, blue, brown, green or yellow.


Wooden box containing domino set, Josiah Day House Collection.

The dominoes are ivory tops on ebony pegged together with brass pins and have depressed black dots. The set belonged to Ben Watson and Cinderella Colton. There's a handwritten note on the underside of the box's lid, transcribed below:

“I used to see Cousin Cindy and Cousin Watson playing evenings with these dominoes when I was a little girl, so when everything was sold, I had these.”

Marion S. L. May 1926

[1] Old Sturbridge Village. (2012) A Child's World: Childhood in 19th Century New England. Journal of Antiques and Collectibles.
[2] Mark, C. (2018) The beginner's guide to the greatest pastimes: Cribbage.
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