Drawing of kids in child labor, unfortunately many times to their death
Posing Figures by Cyril Hobbins
Photo posted with Kind Thanks to Cyril and Armley Mill Museum in Leeds, England

The German and American Toy Industries

Toy Making Becomes An Industry
Unfortunately at the Expense of Children





Most of the following information is taken directly from the book "Toys with Nine Lives" by Andrew McClary

"By the early 1800's the mountainous region of Southern Germany known as the Erzgebirge had become a major center for the making of toys...." "Family members would act as a team with everyone, right on down to the youngest children working all day, and often into the night. Different regions ..... tended to specialize, ....." "Each member of the family had a special task to do." .....

"All of this helped the merchants grow very wealthy, but made life hard for the cottagers. ....." Mr McClary writes, "Amelia Edwards, who visited the region in the late nineteenth century, has given us a fine description of what this work was like. In her book, Untrodden Peaks and Unfrequented Valleys, she tells of an 1879 meeting with Magdalena Paldauf. An old woman, Magdalena had spent her life carving individual animals for Noah's arks. Edwards tells us, She makes them in two sizes; and she turns out as nearly as possible a thousand of them every year. She has no model or drawing of any kind to work by; but goes on steadily, unerringly, using gouges of different sizes, and shaping her cats, dogs, wolves, sheep, goats, and elephants with an ease and an amount of truth to nature that would be clever if it were not so utterly mechanical. Magdalena learned from her mother how to carve these six animals, and her mother had learned in like manner from the grandmother.

Mr McClary again writes, "In 1880, a family of six, making around 6,000 ark animals a week using a Seiffen wheel, would earn just enough to buy bread and potatoes for that week. No wonder these little animals came to be known to the cottagers of the Erzgebirge as "Misery beasts". ..... "Although the German merchants prospered, these toys had been made at the expense of hard, often grueling labor, much of which had been done by children." The author mentions how this continued until WW1 when curtailment of imports and tariffs against German toys ended any major German presence.

The American Toy Industry had begun. But today, it has once again been moved off shore.

Mr McClary describes how American toy makers tended to work independently in the early 1800's until they formed a toy making Guild in the late 1830's. Later he writes, tin smiths and clock makers were the folks who brought American toymaking into this new world.

The Industrial Revolution was truly on it's way.


Child Labor in Turn of Century Germany
From Everybody's Magazine 1906
From Toys With Nine Lives by Andrew McClary'''


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