Illustration Daily – Day 142: Cup & Ball

The cup and ball (or bilboquet) is another one of those toys that appears across many cultures. India, Greece, Spain, France and England all had periods in which the cup and ball was extremely popular. Eskimos even played cup and ball as a ritual that was intended to quicken the return of the sun. The cup and ball enjoyed exceptional popularity in Europe from the 16th century into the late 19th century. Notables figures of this period that enjoyed the toy include King Henry III of France, Queen Elizabeth I,  Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Queen Victoria

142CupandBall

Cup & Ball, 5″x5″, ink and watercolor on illustration board

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Illustration Daily – Day 141: Squirt Gun

Squirt guns have been around for a good long while, and while for most of us a water pistol is a novelty some of the early uses of squirt guns were for actual defense. One early model was marketed under the claim that it would, “stop the most vicious dog (or man) without permanent injury”. But the best early application of the squirt gun was led by Squire Boone (Daniel Boone’s brother). While under siege by Shawnees, Boone fashioned rifles into squirt guns to extinguish their torches, effectively preventing the Shawnees from burning down the fort. Dorothy here seems to have taken a page out of Boone’s book in dealing with the Wicked Witch of the West. 

141SquirtGun

Squirt Gun, 5″x5″, ink and watercolor on illustration board

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Illustration Daily – Day 140: Tea Set

The tea set is one of those toys that allows children to play at being grown-ups, and perhaps because it is so classic I wasn’t able to turn up a lot of interesting information about the miniature tea sets designed for kids. However, I did come across a really unusual tea set that is 3-D printed entirely out of tea. Based on the what has become a standard reference object in 3D design (the Utah or Newell teapot) the designers of this tea set used a base of tea powder and sweetener to create the pot, cups, and spoons. Sadly, you can’t use this set to make or hold tea, because adding water would turn the tea pot into simply: tea. 

140TeaSet

Tea Set, 5″x5″, ink and watercolor on illustration board

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Illustration Daily – Day 139: Marbles

Marbles are as much a collectible as they are a toy. Before mass production of marbles began in late 1880s, a single marble would cost about a penny. However, the introduction of efficient manufacturing allowed children to purchase a bag of 30 marbles for the same price. Collectors today will pay considerably more than a penny for a marble today, if it’s special enough. Some of the rarest marbles have sold for up to $40,000. And while marbles have existed for centuries, the modern marble’s American home might well be Akron, Ohio where Samuel C. Dyke first began mass-producing marbles in both clay and glass. Since 1881 Akron has been home to multiple factories that produce marbles (including Dyke’s), and in 2002 a former factory site became home to the American Toy Marble Museum

139Marbles

Marbles, 5″x5″, ink and watercolor on illustration board

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Illustration Daily – Day 138: Pogo Stick

The pogo stick was patented in 1918 by George Hansburg who shortly after its invention introduced the device to Florenz Ziegfield who developed a popular routine featuring pogo sticks in the famous Ziegfield Follies. The routine was so well received that pogo sticks quickly became a full-fledged fad. Pogo enthusiasts today have taken the stick to new heights (figuratively and literally), with Xpogo, which sponsors pogo competitions for both professionals and amateurs. 

138PogoStick

Pogo Stick, 5″x5″, ink and watercolor on illustration board

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Illustration Daily – Day 137: Yo-Yo

I’ve done a lot of toys this month that have been around for centuries. I would not have guessed how long yo-yos been around though. The earliest evidence of the yo-yo comes from a Greek urn that dates to around 400-500 BC. Yo-yos were even used by Napoleon and his troops as a form of stress relief. But when it comes to true educational value about yo-yos, nothing can beat the Twirl King Champions (which is a perfectly cromulent Simpsons reference, for those that are less nerdy than I). 

137YoYo

Yo-Yo, 5″x5″, ink and watercolor on illustration board

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Illustration Daily – Day 136: Pull Train

This month is focused on toys. Sadly, the pull train doesn’t have a whole lot of interesting factoids floating around about it. (Seriously, the most interesting thing I could find was article about Prince George’s toy train being included in the Royal Christmas card last year.) So, how about a different type of pull train? A 260.8-tonnes (574,964 lbs) train to be exact. In 2003, Velu Rathakrishnan set the record for pulling a train 4.2 meters (13 ft 9 in) with his teeth. He set the world-record, but I’m just left with so many questions. How do you practice for that? Why, of all the world-records, is that the one you attempt? And most importantly, what kind of toothpaste does he use?   

136PullTrain

Pull Train, 5″x5″, ink and watercolor on illustration board

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Illustration Daily – Day 135: Crayons

I love crayons. I still have a huge collection (I use them mostly for figure drawing). And let’s be clear, when I talk crayons, I mean Crayola. I’m not usually brand devotee, but Crayola makes amazing crayons and no one else come close (Seriously, get it together, RoseArt). If you want to learn more about the history of crayons I suggest you head over to Crayoncollecting.com it’s obsessively informative. Or, if you want to get seriously nostalgic, you can check out the time that Mr. Rogers showed us how crayons are made. 

135Crayons

Crayons, 5″x5″, ink, colored pencils, and watercolor on illustration board

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Illustration Daily – Day 134: Army Men

Green Army Men have been a staple toy since the early 1950s. I’m sure other kids did things like playing battles with their army men, but everyone I know (myself included) melted them. Adults are still melting Army Men, you can make a pretty cool little bowl by melting them together, a soldier in the Middle East melted them to resemble modern soldiers (complete with tiny cell phones made from plastic utensils), and melting the classic figures was a important step in creating the quirky Yoga Joes (little green army men doing yoga). If you want to destroy Army Men without the toxic fumes that come through melting, there is an option: Gummy Army Guys (they’re apple-flavored).  

134ArmyMen

Army Men, 5″x5″, ink and watercolor on illustration board

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Illustration Daily – Day 133: Dollhouse

Dollhouses were originally called “baby houses” and weren’t intended for children, instead they were elaborate display cases for carefully crafted miniatures made and collected by adults. However, in the 17th and 18th centuries workshops in Germany began to produce dollhouses for children, and dollhouses have enjoyed a popularity with both groups ever since. My favorite dollhouses are those created by Frances Glessner Lee. Lee’s doll houses called the “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death” are crime scenes in miniature, designed to train investigators to observe, evaluate, and ultimately discover the cause of death. They are extremely intricate and delightfully macabre.  

133Dollhouse

Dollhouse, 5″x5″, ink and watercolor on illustration board

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Illustration Daily – Day 132: Top

The spinning top is another toy that has roots that stretch into antiquity. Used as a toy, a gambling device, a tool for prophecy, and as an alternative to dice; the simple spinning top, has certainly earned its’ place in children’s toy boxes. Honestly, though most tops don’t spin for that long but craftsmen in Japan have recently created a top that can spin for almost 20 minutes. Which is impressive, but perhaps a bit too long to still be entertaining. 

132Top

Top, 5″x5″, ink and watercolor on illustration board

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Illustration Daily – Day 131: Roller Skates

I love museums and I am particularly amused by highly specific museums. So, if I ever make it to Lincoln, Nebraska, I’ll have to see the National Museum of Roller Skating. The museum houses exhibits that feature the evolution of the roller skate wheel, 19th century patents, and “holds the largest, most varied, and unique collection of antique roller skates in the world.” Roller skates can be a lot of fun (unless you get a scraped knee) but they aren’t just toys. For the Amish they’re a form of transportation, giving them more speed and freedom than they get from simply walking. 

131RollerSkates

Roller Skates, 5″x5″, ink and watercolor on illustration board

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Illustration Daily – Day 130: Teddy Bear

The Teddy Bear is named after President Teddy Roosevelt, who while on a bear hunt refused to shoot an old, captured bear that had been tied to a tree. This incident was memorialized in a political cartoon, which in turn sparked a candy-store owner to brand his wife’s stuffed bears as Teddy’s Bears. An instant success, the Teddy Bear quickly became a beloved toy. Manufactures hoping to extend the trend took an a unusual direction when William Taft was elected to office. They presented the “successor” to the teddy bear, the ‘Billy Possum‘ an animal chosen to honor one of Taft’s favorite meals. Sadly, the Billy Possum never made the lasting impact the enduring Teddy Bear has, but it is a fun bit of trivia.  

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Teddy Bear, 5″x5″, ink and watercolor on illustration board

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Illustration Daily – Day 129: Stacking Rings

I really tried to find an interesting fact about stacking rings, but I just couldn’t turn anything up. So here’s what I got. The Fisher-Price Rock-a-Stack version of the rings was listed as number 42 on Time Magazine’s list of 100 All-Time Greatest toys. The simple stack of colorful rings does provide great stimulus for infant development as they learn fine motor skills and sorting. They also provide a great centerpiece for this illustration. No puppy!

129StackingRings

Stacking Rings, 5″x5″, ink and watercolor on illustration board

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Illustration Daily – Day 128: Clay

Unsurprisingly, a lot of my favorite toys growing up were art supplies. And the clay I played with was Play-Doh. Originally, Play-Doh was not a toy. It was a wallpaper cleaner that was formulated to clean soot. When sales dropped due to the introduction of a vinyl wallpaper and the decrease in coal burning in homes, a family member discovered an alternate use for the product. By removing the conditioners and adding dye and scent the cleaner became a play-thing. The popularity of the clay was boosted by endorsements from Captain Kangaroo, Ding Dong School, and Romper Room and cemented the Play-Doh as a favorite toy for generations.

128Clay

Clay, 5″x5″, ink and watercolor on illustration board

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