NEWLY REINTERPRETED AND VASTLY EXPANDED
The Stewart Toy Soldier Gallery at The Frazier History Museum is one of the largest collections of historic toy soldiers 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.
KENTUCKY PROUD : Local Connections to Toy Soldiers
HANDS ON DISCOVERY
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 THROUGH THE AGES
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
Dimestore figures are American made toy soldiers from the 1930s to the 1950s sold individually in five-and-dime stores such as Kresge, Woolworths, and Ben Franklin. the Dimestore figures were minimally painted hollow casts made of 87% lead, 13% antimony. The popularity of the toy soldier reflected public interest in wars around the world and America's own military preparedness of the era. The Grey Iron Casting Company located in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, was the first major dimestore toy maker beginning production in 1933 with the introduction of 35 different soldiers. The largest manufacturer of dimestore figures was Barclays Manufacturing company. Barclays and their competitors kept prices at about 5 cents a figure, making them affordable for children.
MAKER SPOTLIGHT: Gebrüder Märklin 1859-Present
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 settled in Paris where he began making his famous line of detailed single portrait historic figures. He meticulously sculpted each original from which the molds were made. His wife, along with a handful of assistants hand painted each figure, resulting in a singular artistic rendering that blurrs the distinction between toy soldier and sculpture. Vertunni created the forerunner of the modern connoisseur figure by selling his detailed characters individually, rather than in large uniform groups.