• NCR Regional Archeology Program

    NCR Regional Archeology Program


Themes in Time

Playthings of the Past

Toys hold a fascination for children of all ages. Many an hour has been whiled away in play with a favorite toy. The making of toys has evolved from the simple to the complex. By the 1400s toy making had become an industry in its own right. This is particularly true in Germany where, as early as the fifteenth century, guilds had been organized among toy makers. Toy makers began establishing their trade in America by the early nineteenth century. By the end of this century, factories were mass-producing toys, which were then sold in specialty shops. Now, toys are offered for sale in specialty shops, department, discount, and grocery stores, the internet, and even given away as premiums in fast food restaurants.

Just like today, children of the past often took their playthings outside, inevitably misplacing some of them. Fabric dolls with delicate porcelain legs and arms would slip through their mothers' arms and shatter on the sidewalk, gaming pieces would be lost in the grass, marbles would roll through the wooden slats on the porch, seemingly never to be seen again. While the materials used to make toys have evolved over time, the general types of playthings available has changed remarkably little. Click below to learn more about some objects recovered in the National Capital Region: