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November 23, 2010

It Wouldn’t Be Christmas Without Toys!

Discover what children in the late 19th century would have found under the Christmas tree with the exhibition, “A Carolina Room Christmas,” at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum. The exhibition opens Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25.

Stores were filled with toys during the holiday season during the last half of the 19th century. Children wrote letters to Santa and pestered parents for the latest playthings. They hung stockings for Santa to fill and had an expectation of wonderful treats awaiting them around the tree on Christmas morning.

“A Carolina Room Christmas” features toys children of that era would have enjoyed. Girls in that time period, like girls now, cherished dolls. Gretchen, a doll manufactured in Philadelphia by the Greiner firm in 1872-1875, has been handed down through several generations of the Clymer-Rumford family. Born in Pennsylvania in 1856, Emily Smith Clymer, first owned the doll. Her sister, Valeria, later cared for Gretchen who passed to the sisters’ niece and then to their great-niece. Ellen Rumford Bogardus donated Gretchen to the Folk Art Museum.

Young ladies played for hours with a set of American-made doll furniture allowing the dolls a place to hold tea parties and other social events. Generations of girls re-created family life with a Virginia-made dollhouse dated 1890. The dollhouse was the gift of William H. and Nancy H. Marshall.

Young boys re-created battles with a set of wooden soldiers made in Germany between 1840-90 and an American-made wooden and metal cannon dated circa 1865. The cannon was the gift of an anonymous donor.

Trains have always captured the imagination of children and adults alike. This exhibit includes a decorated American-made train dated 1870 that traveled for miles in a living room or nursery. What would the holidays be without Santa? This jolly old elf was made in New York circa 1885 from cotton, ink and sawdust. An American-made wooden wagon and blocks dated 1835 entertained many a young boy. The wooden wagon and blocks were a gift of Beatrix T. Rumford.

Many toys would appeal to children of either gender. Hill’s Spelling Blocks, crafted by S.L. Hill of Williamsburg, Long Island, N.Y., between 1858-1880, provided entertainment and education for its young users. A wooden ark, made in Germany between 1840-80, retells the story of Noah and the flood and an American-made wooden rocking horse provided hours of entertainment to its riders.

The exhibition runs through Sunday, Jan. 2.

The Carolina Room

The Carolina Room displays the original painted walls, moldings, fireplace surround, doors and windows from the parlor of Colonel Alexander Shaw (1788-1863) and Sarah McIntosh Shaw (1802-1883), whose house was built near Wagram in Scotland County, N.C., circa 1820. Woodwork was removed from the Shaw house around 1930, and the house itself was razed in the 1940s. The interior passed through the hands of several antique dealers before coming to Colonial Williamsburg in the mid-1950s. Conservation of the Carolina Room has been supported by generous gifts and grants from Patricia and Rex A. Lucke of Elkhorn, Neb., and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg include the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is home to the nation’s premier collection of American folk art, with more than 5,000 folk art objects made during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum exhibits the best in British and American decorative arts from 1670–1830.

The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg are located at the intersection of Francis and South Henry Streets in Williamsburg, Va., and are entered through the Public Hospital of 1773. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. For museum program information, telephone (757) 220-7724.

Philanthropic support by individuals, corporations, and foundations benefits the educational mission of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational and cultural organization that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s website at

Media Contact:
Penna Rogers
(757) 220-7121