Featured objects from the Ed and Saryl Von der Porten Collection, part of the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park museum collection.
Tinplate toys, popular since the mid-19th century, boomed in production and popularity following WWI. After the U.S joined the war in 1941, the manufacture of tinplate toys was temporarily discontinued in order to conserve raw materials, but Marx tinplate toys remained popular through the 1960s. This tank dates to the late 1930s and would have been present in playrooms during WWII.
The Boy Scouts used the Fleron Signaler as their official signaler to train boys in Morse Code during the first half of the 20th century. Whether one was a Boy Scout or not, this toy allowed children to learn and play at being a signaler. An advertisement in the February 1940 issue of Boys’ Life magazine said, “Every boy wants one. Every boy ought to have one.” Sold individually or in sets of two, Fleron Signalers could be hooked up together for sending and receiving messages with friends.
Miniature toy soldiers have a long history throughout the world. Prior to WWII, the majority of toy soldiers were made of metal; however, material shortages during the war restricted the use of metal, and composition soldiers gained popularity. Toy soldiers and their accessories allowed children to “play war” like their daddies and always be the victorious hero without the burden of its ugly realities.
Holgate has been in business since 1789. Originally a manufacturer of industrial and domestic wood products, they began making toys in 1929. Many of their toys, such as this truck, include peg people that can be interchanged with other Holgate toys. Holgate featured this Army Truck in its 1941 catalog, along with several other vehicles modeled after the U.S. Army, and touted the vehicles as “Toys of Today.”
Tank toys surged in popularity during WWII as a result of their visibility as a military machine. Though tanks were used in WWI, use was not universal and tank technology was not well-developed until WWII. Toys like this durable wooden pull-toy tank with moveable tracks reflected a growing interest in tanks by children.
Dave Breger (Irving David Breger 1908-1970) was an award-winning cartoonist who created the popular Sunday comics, Private Breger and G.I. Joe. Private Breger was a spoof character based on Breger himself. His cartoons appealed to children and adults alike, as they provided some lighthearted comic relief to the serious topic of war and being a soldier.
Candy cigarettes were introduced in the early 20th century and remained popular throughout. Though Peco made these collector cards prior to U.S. involvement in the war, 1940-1941, they highlight an interest in military planes by children as a result of the global conflict. These two cards are part of a set of twenty-eight cards that could be collected from packages of Peco Candy Cigarettes.
This paper doll kit features patterns for nine female figures. With men off to war, women were expected to fill positions that challenged traditional gender roles. This paper doll kit reflects those changes and celebrates women in a variety of jobs, some of which were normally reserved for men. Though these changes were intended to be temporary, with women resuming their positions as housewives and mothers once the war was over, many young girls viewed these new opportunities afforded to women as something to aspire to. Mr. Ed Von der Porten, the original owner of this collection, created the reproduction WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) and Nurse dolls. WAVES served as a unit of the U.S. Naval Reserve.
The Army Jeep was first manufactured in November 1940, and the sturdy four-wheel drive vehicle quickly became an essential tool for the U.S. Army and popular with model makers. This cardboard model features a fold-down windshield and required its builder to borrow straight pins from their mother for the dashboard and shifter details. Mr. Ed Von der Porten, the original owner of this collection, built this particular model.
Joe Ott is well-known for the model kits he produced in the 1930s and 1940s. This kit, designed to be fun and educational, contains six die-cut sheets for making twenty-four different Allied and Axis military airplanes. Building the models in this kit was a great way for children and adults alike to pass the time and stay engaged with the war effort.
Thank you to the late Ed and Saryl Von der Porten and to the Rosie the Riveter Trust for purchasing the collection and donating it to the park.
Exhibit created by Rosie the Riveter/WWII National Historical Park.
Images courtesy of Rosie the Riveter/WWII National Historical Park.