In case you’ve
wondered.

From Arrowheads / To Anvils

Stories

NCVM

Nose Creek Valley Museum - City of Airdrie 1904

Pre and Post-War Children’s Toys

Carmen Cundy

Date / February 11, 2022

Following in the theme of the “Obscure and Unseen” artefacts at the Nose Creek Valley Museum, I would like to bring to light some of the children’s toys that were at one time a beloved part of a child’s toy chest in the 1930s and 1940s.

The “Dirty Thirties” was an era that saw families cutting back their expenses to survive an economic recession, known as The Great Depression. Shortly thereafter, Canadians witnessed the onset of the Second World War when metal and rubber were both scarce commodities and were being allocated to the war effort. As a result, children of these eras often had to make do with whatever toys they could find or salvage. Toys at the time required a lot of imagination, featured very few bits and bobs, and were made from basic materials. In fact, many kids’ toys during the Great Depression and Second World War were hand-me-downs from older siblings. Simple toys like dolls, finger paint, and die cast model cars were popular along with pedal cars and trucks reflecting the streamlining of automobiles at the time.

However, the toys available to those who could afford them in the 1930s were increasingly innovative. New manufacturing methods combined with the rapid growth of both radio and movie theatres, made radio and movie stars household names.

This increased the variety of toys kids were asking for from Santa Claus, including home movie projectors and Mickey Mouse films.

Wealthier children played with Erector sets, toy trains, air rifles, dolls and doll houses, and a wide variety of kids typewriters, adding machines, and medical playsets. Board games which have stood the test of time were also introduced in these decades including Monopoly, Scrabble, and Sorry! By the mid-thirties, the price of children’s toys had dropped, which can be in part attributed to cheaper manufacturing methods during the great depression.

During World War II, men were shipped overseas to aid in the war effort in Europe and Japan, and the materials that could be used to produce toys, such as steel and rubber, were needed to produce tanks, ships, planes, and other weapons.

Toys that were produced had a war slant to them, including guns and military type toys for little boys, as well as baby dolls, toy brooms, mops, tea sets, irons, and ovens for the girls to play house with.

Later in the decade, the toys increased in sophistication from the previous era, including an increase in “electronic games,” which in some cases only meant it had a blinking light. Popular and innovative toys of the late 1940s included the Slinky, Magic 8 Ball, and Silly Putty.

The decade also introduced board games to the masses, such as Candyland, Chutes & Ladders, Rummikub and Clue. Supernatural-inspired toys also hit the shelves including Ouija boards and spinning fortune tellers.

There’s no doubt that while the pre and post-war eras were known for economic scarcity and the collective war effort, there were still many options for children who wanted to while away the time enjoying their favourite plaything.

 

Sources:

Popular Vintage 1930s Toys including Photos, Descriptions and Prices (thepeoplehistory.com)

Popular Vintage 1940s Toys including Photos, Descriptions and Prices (thepeoplehistory.com)

1930s Toys: What Did Kids Play With? (retrowaste.com)

1940s Toys: What Did Kids Play With? (retrowaste.com)

Stories We Recommend