Wander Minnesota: Toys

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(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

Amy Rea Amy Rea
Amy Rea is a freelance writer and author of Minnesota, Land of 10,000...
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The fun factor is pretty high at the exhibit that just opened at the Minnesota History Center: Toys of the 50s, 60s and 70s (or as a History Center staffer put it, “From the Cold War to Star Wars”).

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

For anyone who grew up in those decades—or for their children, who will get a kick out of seeing what their parents played with (both in terms of differences and similarities) – this exhibit is a hoot. The exhibit space is carved out by decade. Does the 70s room look familiar to anyone else?

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

Within each room is a fantastic selection of popular toys of the day: banana seat bikes, Barbie dream homes, iconic TV and movie characters:

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

Dueling toy manufacturers, such as Matchbox and Hot Wheels:

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

Toys that reflect the topics of interest of the day:

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

And there’s the occasional anachronism. Check out the lower right-hand square on this vintage version of Mouse Trap:

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

Hard to imagine today’s game manufacturers adding a jug of moonshine and mentioning a drunken mouse in a child’s game.

There are several Minnesota connections in the exhibit. You might have already known about this one:

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

Tonka Trucks, of course. But did you know that Twister was invented here? Or Barrel of Monkeys? How about this:

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

Cootie was created in 1949 by Herbert Schaper of Minneapolis’ Schaper Toys. He went on to create other games, like Tickle Bee and Ants in the Pants.

NERF Balls were created in St. Paul by the Reynolds Guyer Agency in 1970. St. Paul’s Master Industries produced stuffed animals for years. And local giant 3M had some sway in the board game world years ago:

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

And at one time, General Mills was the owner of this popular brand:

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

Paper dolls were popular, such as these from Betsy McCall.

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

There were some items drawn along gender, such as these different toys for boys and girls:

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

However, even back in the 1950s it wasn’t safe to assume what constituted a “girly” toy. The Lady Lionel train set, introduced in 1957, was a big failure because girls who wanted to play with trains wanted their trains to look like real trains.

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

And just look at this diabolical chemistry set:

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

The exhibit will be on display until Jan. 4, 2015. Parents, note that there are several interactive parts of the exhibit, and some hands-on toys for curious kids, too. And plenty of fun replicas are available for purchase in the museum shops. On Tuesday nights, the History Center is open from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. with free admission.

What else is happening in our state? Be sure to check out the 10 p.m. Sunday night WCCO newscasts, where you can learn more in the weekly segment, Finding Minnesota.

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