gerisullivan: (Twinzy Horse)
I've been meaning to visit the Kimball House Museum in Battle Creek for several years now. They have some Twinzy Toys and information about my great-aunts' toy company that I want to check out. It's one of many things I haven't gotten around to, mostly because my visits to Battle Creek tend to be infrequent, brief, and filled with other things while I'm there.

Tuesday's email brought an unexpected invitation my way. I'm sure to finally visit Kimball House Museum on Tuesday, May 24, 2011. At 6:00 pm that evening, I'm speaking there! I'm doing a program on Twinzy Toys and the Squier Family.

The invitation came out of email correspondence I've been having with Heritage Battle Creek President Charles Rose and other folks in Battle Creek who found the Twinzy Toy photos that [ profile] batwrangler put on Flickr. They also want me and other members of the family to film a family story video for local community cable TV and online viewing via YouTube.

Very exciting, and amusing, too. It's certainly not how I expected to introduce myself to the folks at Kimball House Museum. I'm far from complaining -- I've already learned more about Twinzy Toys from them electronically than I ever expected to in person. Before the invitation came on Tuesday, they sent me info from two newspaper articles about Twinzy Toys published in 1945 and 1955. From the 1945 article, I learned the names of several toys: the Twinzy Toy horse in my user icon is "Merry Legs." That article also said that in 1941, Lord & Taylor in New York featured a window display of the "Man in the Moon" dolls, and that during WWII, Twinzy Toys made "General Maude," an Army mule that was sold only at West Point.

I'd already known the wire-haired terrier toy was named "Hy-Jack" after the twins own wire-haired terrier of the same name. The article only named the toy, not mentioning it was their dog's name, but it was still nice to see the confirmation -- the toy is pictured on the tradeshow banner I have, but I don't have a Hy-Jack itself. Nor an Jerry Giraffe or Emma Elephant. Hope springs eternal in the collector's heart.

Both articles include the information that over a million Twinzy Toys were made at the toy factory in Battle Creek. I've known they were sold nationwide, but was glad to have that info supplemented by this bit from the 1945 article:

"While some toy manufacturers work only for the Christmas market, Twinzy Toys have a year round demand and their output in January is almost as great as it is in December. For a number of years these toys have had a market in Honolulu and Panama but just recently orders for them have come in from both Brazil and Portuguese East Africa. However the owners of the business are not soliciting foreign trade because (and this has been especially true in the past few years) they cannot begin to supply the demand in this country."
gerisullivan: (Twinzy Toy)
Until last week, I didn't know Twinzy Toys had also been made and used as promotional items. This little Acrobat Dog is now on his way to me, me, me.

Acrobat Shoes Dog
Acrobat Shoes Dog
This little guy was a promotional item for Acrobat Shoes. Copyright 1928 Twinzy Toys.
Acrobat Shoes Dog -- Back
Acrobat Shoes Dog -- Back
"I'm an Acrobat Dog already to leap, with some "ACROBAT" SHOES upon both my feet." He came with a squeaker inside.


Jul. 31st, 2009 11:45 pm
gerisullivan: (Twinzy Man in the Moon)
I've had a fabulous July. Yes, July brought two major problems on the financial front -- one short term, the other long term. But the month also brought:

-- confirmation of a spiff new book project with John D. Berry that I'm eager to get started on

-- two and a half wonderful weeks touring colleges and hanging out with Susan and Gavi

-- a thoroughly delightful birthday box from Aussie fan David Russell

-- multiple lovely as always visits with [ profile] debgeisler and [ profile] benveniste

-- my first visit to Mood, of Project Runway fame

-- a fun visit with Joe & Edie and birthday dinner with Ben all in conjunction with Gavi's tour at Barnard

-- Kitty, the lobster Gavi knit under my nose without me recognizing she was knitting a lobster instead of a cat

-- much knitting of my own in anticipation of the arrival of my great-nephew

-- the welcome end of my 8# post-surgical weight lifting restriction

-- a flurry of fun party prep for Reno's final bid parties at Anticipation, including baking and decorating hundreds (and hundreds) of cookies with [ profile] debgeisler and my first visit to Jack Smillies, a wholesale candy warehouse.

-- design and delivery of the posters and handbills for this year's Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony on October 1st.

-- a new addition to my Twinzy Toy collection. Mistress Mary (quite contrary) was a birthday present for a 1-year-old in 1927. Thanks to eBay, she was a birthday present again 82 years later, this time from an 86-year-old man to his 55-year-old daughter.

And a bunch of other pleasant things I'm not remembering or going into as I type this post and watch the month turn from July to August.

It truly was a glowing man in the moon sort of month, right down to the online replay of the glowing man on the moon mission to mark the 40th anniversary of that historic event.

There was even a lot of sun. That helped counterbalance the monsoon rains (normal July rainfall: 4.19 inches. Actual July 2009 rainfall: 10.81 inches. Drip. Drip.).

Life is good. Hard, but so very, very good.

I won Tom!

Sep. 17th, 2008 05:53 pm
gerisullivan: (Default)
He's a piper's son, doncha know? This particular Tom has been running since my days when my 85-year-old father was running around his grandfather's tag factory where Tom was made.

Tom, Tom the Piper's Son
Tom, Tom the piper's son
This is the first Twinzy Toy I've won in standard, online eBay auction. (Skater Doll came from a life auction linked to eBay.) You can see the rip in the seam on top of his head. He looks like the same era and material as Skater Doll, and he has the same Twinzy Toy logo on his back as Skater Doll has on his leg. [Photo from eBay listing; to be replaced with my own after he arrives]

One of the hardest things about being deeply in debt is allowing myself to buy anything that isn't an absolute necessity. Twinzy Toys clearly aren't necessities, and if they start showing up more often I expect I'll opt to collect photos only. But for right now, bidding on him was the right choice for me, and I'm glad my bid proved to be the winning one!
gerisullivan: (Twinzy Toy)
[ profile] batwrangler is much faster at putting photos online than I am. She also takes much better pictures than I do, though I do get designer credit for suggesting the corrugated backdrop.

It all adds up to Saturday's win-win.

(Clicking will take you to her Twinzy Toy Flickr gallery. Dr. Duck, Man-in-the-Moon, Mr. Tick Tock, Skater Doll, Pandora, and more. Thanks, [ profile] batwrangler!)

She even brought Puccini, who was very well behaved and good company. And tasty pineapple zucchini bread. Life is good.
gerisullivan: (Twinzy Toy)
"'Twinzy' toys can be chewed and washed. Have been used by many a baby for teething purposes."

Yup, the copywriter got that caption right. It's under a black and white photo showing an adorable Twinzy Toy elephant and a familiar Twinzy Toy horse in the December 1940 issue of Baby Talk magazine. It's the upper right image in the auction listing picture. Image size: 2-3/8"x 1-3/4".

Baby Talk has a cover price of 15 cents and claims it was read by over 100,000 new mothers every month. The fact that my copy is stamped "Compliments of Dy-Dee Wash, Inc." suggests just where those 100,000 new mothers were coming from. The fact that there isn't a natural spot in the layout of the cover for a diaper service or other gift stamp suggests that they were trying to maintain plausible deniability, or perhaps just that it was a different time.

Google and Wikipedia is my friend: BabyTalk is America' oldest baby magazine. And, yes, even the publisher's website agrees that it was launched as a supplement to a cloth diaper delivery service. It was only 5 years old when this issue was published; Twinzy Toys were 22. "Many a baby," indeed.

I'll enjoy looking through the entire 40-page issue, and also the newspaper clippings tucked inside pages 16-17. They all appear to be from the Decatur Herald. My favorite for the "have times really changed" contest is the Your Baby and Mine column. The headline reads "New Mothers Always Feel Helpless and Incompetent" -- not quite how a headline writer would handle the topic today, but it's still a common experience. Myrtle Meyer Eldred's lead, however.... Well, it tells a different story:

"Every mother who brings home a 10 to 14-day-old baby from the hospital..."

Right. More from the magazine, including the Bundles for Britain campaign )
gerisullivan: (Twinzy Toy)
Skater Doll is here and is happily getting acquainted with the other Twinzy Toys in my collection.

Label surprise!
Label surprise

This is the label on the pull-toy Skater doll. It's unlike any other label in my collection! In particular:

1) The Twinzy Toy identifying information is typically hand-lettered rather than typeset when it appears directly on the toy or on the sewn-in label. Even the toys that have paper tags were created with a typewriter rather than actual typography.

2) None of the other Twinzy Toys mention the Squier Twins (that would be Blanche and Bernice, aka Auntie Blanche, my great-aunt and sister's Godmother, and Auntie Bun, my great-aunt and Godmother).

3) The drawing of the twins is unique to my eye. Now that I can see its detail, I know the art was also used on the cardboard topper on the two mint-in-package Twinzy Toys I have (a bunny and a small bag containing a block and a ball). On one of them, it's mostly a blue blob. On the other, there's some more detail, but nothing like the detail on Skater doll.

Very exciting! I'm certain the typesetting and printing was done in my Great-Grandfather's tag factory, the American Manufacturing Company. I have the ATF 1923 type specimen book that belonged to Charles Squier, the twins' father; now I have another example of some of the type he owned.

Click on the picture for a few more Twinzy Toy photos, including some showing the trade show booth banner that hung at the New York Toy Fair for many years between the 1920s and 1940s. One of these days, I'll take individual pictures of each of the toys, or, better yet, perhaps [ profile] batwrangler will come down for a weekend and do the honors. Or another likely suspect, though the subject matter really does suit the bear maker best.
gerisullivan: (Twinzy Toy)

Twinzy Toys in Baby Talk magazine

I suppose it's fitting that my first eBay Twinzy Toy success would immediately be followed by another. The second auction wasn't for another toy, but rather for the December 1940 issue of Baby Talk magazine. Twinzy Toys are mentioned in its pages, most likely in the washable toys article shown in the picture. A few of them look right, but I won't know for sure until the actual magazine arrives. I won the auction tonight at the minimum bid and quickly paid the seller. It's coming from Louisville, so I should have it soon.

I've had the Twinzy search set up on eBay ever since I finally registered for an account a year ago. Having the second hit show up just two days after the auction on the first hit ended was amusing. I almost find myself hoping that the seller noticed that somebody out there was interested in Twinzy Toys and added mention of them to her description. That would make sense. Otherwise, it was sheer happenstance, and that's just plain weird.


Jun. 28th, 2008 02:24 pm
gerisullivan: (Default)
Skater Doll is mine! Yes, it's a Twinzy Toy.

Skater Doll, photo from William H. Bunch auction catalog
Skater Doll, photo from William H. Bunch auction catalog
This Twinzy Toy was part of the inventory from the Yellow Brick Road Doll and Toy Museum sold at auction during the summer of 2008 after museum owners Dorothy and Steve Tancraitor retired. It is the second Twinzy Toy I've found thanks to the internet and the first Twinzy pull toy in my small collection.

You may be wondering just what heck a Twinzy Toy is. Well, unless you've been to my basement Toy Room or remember my past mentions of my great-aunts and the Twinzy Toy Company they ran in a corner of their father's tag factory in Battle Creek, Michigan, in which case your memory has already told you why I'm so delighted with this addition to my collection.

Blanche and Bernice Squier -- Auntie Blanche and Auntie Bun -- started the Twinzy Toy Company in 1918. Yes, they were identical twins. They started making dolls and selling them to friends just before they went to college. They completed their freshman year, then decided that there was enough demand for their dolls that they would start selling them commercially instead of returning to school. That was the end of their college education, and the beginning of business that ran for roughly 35 years. They had a trade show booth at the New York Toy Fair for years, and Twinzy Toys were sold in department and toy stores nationwide. Marshall Field's was one of their many customers.

Today, Twinzy Toys are all but unknown. )

The adventure even has its own lagniappe. I called [ profile] minnehaha K. for eBay bidding advice. The situation was complicated by this being a live auction, and I'm an eBay novice to boot. It turns out that her friend, the Queen of PEZland, lives near Chadds Ford, PA, where the auction was being held. K. and Amy have been antiquing there!

The auction house doesn't do their own shipping. If the timing works out, Amy will pick up Skater Doll from them and ship it my way. If not, I'll use the commercial shipper used by many other auction house customers. I hope Skater Doll visits Amy's PEZ collection on its way to me, but it's a win just to be back in touch with her.

The auction notice sent me searching. Much to my surprise, I found Laura Adams recent post about visiting Quaker Park in the Northside Irregular. The park includes the land where the tag and toy factory stood, and her report includes a photo of a Twinzy Toy Historical Marker I didn't know was there! Like most historical markers, it contains an error or two. "They lie like hell" was how my father put it when I read the text to him over the phone. But this post is already long, so I'll leave the details of that for another time.
gerisullivan: (Default)
Over on her LiveJournal, [ profile] debgeisler posted about Mitt Romney's real first name being Willard. Being a Michigan girl myself, the name is a familiar one, though my own knowledge of it is as a surname. I grew up with Willard Library, named after Charles Willard, whose estate funded the building in 1905. Twenty-nine years later, his nephew, George B. Willard, left money to expand the library, further cementing the Willard name into Battle Creek history. Then there's Willard Beach, at Goguac Lake, about 8 blocks from the house my Dad still lives in.

But it was Deb's mention of the name that sent me to Google today, and that turned up a remarkable find. Williard Library has put thousands of historical pictures of Battle Creek online! Including the following gems:

89 Jordan Street, where I lived until I was 3.

149 Fremont Street, the Squier House, where Auntie Bun, my great-aunt and godmother lived with her twin sister, Bernice. They ran Twinzy Toys on the top floor of their father's tag factory, shown in this picture of 151 Fremont Street. More Battle Creek photo links, including a couple to the Slan Shack )

I love living in the future.
gerisullivan: (Twinzy Frog)
...are now unpacked and assembled into most of the choir. I think there are fewer than 100 more to go! That's just the choir of unique dispensers taken out of their packages for display. I emptied just one of the seven bins of PEZ I moved east, which means there's rather a lot more PEZ to make a place for.

I originally planned to go to the East Coast PEZ convention in Connecticut this weekend, but dropped the idea when March brought a major health insurance rate increase scare. Even though that has since resolved itself far better than I anticipated, resulting in what looks to be better coverage for $7/month less than I was paying last year rather than $122/month more, I'm just as glad to have avoided the PEZcon temptation. There are a surprising number of new dispensers coming out these days, and conventions are also a great place to pick up older (and pricier) dispensers. Instead, I had the joy of remembering just how many dispensers I've added to my collection since packing it in August, 2003, and seeing again how big it was even then.

Thanks to staying home, the basement toy room is starting to look like something other than a storage area for lots of boxes. Better yet, the Twinzy Toy tradeshow banner is up! My great-aunts, Blanche and Bun (Bernice), were twins and ran the Twinzy Toy company from the 1920s until the mid-'50s. They exhibited at the New York Toy Fair for most of those years, and they hand-painted at 18-foot banner to use in their booth. My dad gave it to me most of 20 years ago, but until now it's been rolled up, waiting for a time when I had a good place and way to display it. Whoohoo! It looks great in the toy room! (The icon shows just a small portion of the banner...little did the twins know they'd have a grand-niece grow up to live in Toad Woods when they added a frog to their toy line!)

The weekend's accomplishments also include assembling five book cases, which means there are no shelves waiting to be assembled for the first time since last July. That's something of a good news/bad news scenario. It's great to have all the shelves in usable condition instead of in boxes, in pieces. Unfortunately, it also means I'll soon need to buy and assemble more shelves. Eep!

My paperbacks are finally unpacked; I'm down to a half-dozen boxes of other books. With luck, they'll fit on the three Mission-style wood shelves I bought last month. I have fewer books than most any fan you know. Still, it's nice to have them accessible. Just seeing them brings a comfort.

I've decided to paint all of the PEZboards (pegboard used to display MOC — "Mint on Card" — dispensers). My PEZboards are each a different color, and while little of the board shows once the pegboard hooks are filled with dispensers, none of the current colors even pretends to go with the room. I'll paint them a dark blue so they'll complement the circus fabric that Susan is going to make into an entrance to the Big Top when she and Gavi visit in June.

The toy room needs a couple more chairs, which I hope to pick up at bargain rates as soon as yard sale season begins. Fingers crossed, knocking wood....

Also on the agenda for this month: unpacking and organizing the rest of the Fanac Repository (the smaller finished room in my basement). It would be really nice to be unpacked by the time I've lived here a year! Hmm...that would also mean unpacking and hanging the art, something I've had on my calendar since December yet haven't managed to do yet. Perhaps I'm being overly optimistic here.

There will always be more projects, of course. Susan and I picked up three different fabrics for curtains and patio table coverings at SR Harris when I was in Minneapolis for [ profile] minicon40, and that's in addition to the circus fabric, which I bought there most of three years ago. And I expect that the notion I'll clear the second bay in the garage ranks as pure fantasy; it works too well as a convenient, supplemental basement.

Optimism and fantasies aside, the reality of progress made these last couple of days is really quite satisfying. As are the crocus blossoms, the rapidly shrinking patches of snow, and numerous other signs of spring. (I'm not asking how the Northern Spring Peeper made its way into my basement, but having a walk-out door made it quick and easy to return it to its native habitat.)


gerisullivan: (Default)

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