Newly Reinterpreted and Vastly Expanded
The Stewart Toy Soldier Gallery at The Frazier History Museum is one of the largest collections of historic miniatures on public display in the world. Made possible thanks to a generous donation from Charles Stewart, whose love of toy soldiers began as a boy and continues today with a collection of nearly 13,000 world class figures representing approximately 114 historic makers. The Stewart toy soldier Gallery Guide provides an invaluable tool for enjoying the collection on site. Many of the rare and distinctive figures in the collection have been featured across several issues of Old Toy Soldier Magazine
Rare Unique and Important
Renowned author and auction house expert, Norman Joplin, worked with the Frazier to analyze and assess the collection and provided input on its display and interpretation. As editor of Old Toy Soldier Magazine, a worldwide resource for historic miniatury collectors, Joplin is a British Citizen who has been granted permanent residence status in the United States based on his exceptional ability in a specialist field of knowledge in connection with the Social History of toy figures as viewed through the eyes of children’s toys during the period 1893 to 1966. Read Norman Joplin’s comments about the Stewart Collection at the Frazier HERE
Discovery Through Play
With over 16,000 toy soldiers in its collection and over 10,000 on display, The Stewart Toy Soldier Gallery brings the toy soldier experience out from behind the glass, and into the hands of children (both young and at heart) who simply want to play. The exhibit allows visitors to browse makers, styles and periods of treasured miniatures, while using their imaginations to experience a tiny world of play though hands-on interaction.
The Louisville Citizen's Guard Unit set, and The Kentucky Derby diorama both displayed on the 1st floor of the museum underline the ties between the world of toy soldiers, and local history and culture.
Soldiers in all Shapes, Sizes and Materials
The Stewart Toy Soldier collection contains a comprehensive example of the different kinds of materials in the manufacture of toy soldiers: lead, tin, composition, paper, wood, and plastic.
Maker Spotlight : The W. Britain Company 1845-present
The W. Britain Company began in 1845 with the production of a variety of mechanical toys. It wasn’t until 1893 that William Britain cracked the German process of hollow casting, which involves filling a mold with molten lead, allowing a shell to harden and then pouring the still molten lead back out. By saving lead, the most costly part of the soldiers at the time, William Britain Senior passed the production saving costs onto the customers, and his toy soldiers quickly became one of the most popular brands by the early 20th century. Production of W. Britain toy soldiers continues today, and after more than 120 years the company has the largest oeuvre of toy soldiers among makers. Though no longer owned by the Britain family, the company is currently owned and operated by American based diecast replica and custom imprinting and tooling business, First Gear.
Maker Spotlight : Georg Heyde 1870-1944
Founded in Dresden, Germany in the 1830s by Gustav Adolf Theodor, it was not until Georg Heyde took over and obtained a license to become a toy trader in 1872 that the company’s products became the Heyde items that toy soldier collectors recognize today. Heyde became a leader in producing a diversity of figures in huge display boxes containing up to 150 figures! The Heyde factory was destroyed by allied forces in 1944.
Maker Spotlight: American Dimestore 1930s-1950s Barclay, Manoil and Grey
Dimestore figures are American made toy soldiers that sold individually in five- and-dime stores such as Kresge, Woolworths, and Ben Franklin. Minimally painted hollow cast figures measuring 3 inches in size, they were made to corresponded with American made standard gauge toy trains of the time. The popularity of the toy soldier reflected public interest in wars around the world and America’s own military preparedness of the era. By the 1970s, dimestore soldiers were replaced by plastic "army men" toy soldiers.
Grey Iron Casting Company located in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, was the first major dimestore toy soldier maker and was the only company to produce 3 and 3 1⁄4 inch iron toy soldiers. Production began in 1933, with the introduction of 35 different soldiers. The largest manufacturer of dimestore figures was the Barclay Manufacturing Company. Barclay and their competitors kept prices at about five cents per figure, making them a ordable to children. The figures were made of 87% lead and 13% antimony.
Maker Spotlight: Warren 1935 - 1941
Among the rarest and finest American made toy soldiers are those of the Warren Lines. John Warren Jr. founded the company in Brooklyn in 1935 and quickly achieved notoriety for his well-crafted figures. It is speculated that Warren recruitedvsculptress Margaret Cloninger to improve the improve the artistic quality of his line. With Cloninger on board, Warren figures rivaled their European counterparts artistically and anatomically. The partnership worked so well that Cloninger and Warren eventually married. In the United States, however, dimestore figures proved too popular and the higher price and sophistication of Warren figures did not draw buyers, forcing the company to close in 1941.
Maker Spotlight: Gebrüder Märklin
Founded in 1859 in Göppingen, Germany, Gebrüder Märklin, or Märklin, as it is known today originally specialized in dollhouse accessories! The maker is currently renowned for its model railways and technical toys. During WWI, as Britian and Germany raced to build bigger and better ships, toy makers followed suit building complex and sophisticated wind up tin ship models that were raced around ponds by children around the world. The toy ship craze was so popular that when a groundskeeper drained the pond in London's Kensington Gardens in 1923, he discovered 150 sunken vessels at the bottom!
Maker Spotlight: Gustave Vertunni 1884-1953
Gustave Vertunni was the master behind the highly detailed line of Vertunni figures. Following two failed attempts to start his own production of standard toy soldiers, Vertunni settled in Paris where he began making his famous line of single portrait historic figures. Vertunni meticulously sculpted each original from which molds were made, then his wife, along with a handful of assistants, hand painted each figure. The result was a singular artistic rendering that blurred the distinction between toy soldier and sculpture. Vertunni created the forerunner of the modern connoisseur figure by selling his highly detailed characters individually, rather than in large uniform groups.