Frazier History Museum

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. 

Georg Hyde and Company Dresden/FAO Schwartz, Germany. Detail of West Point Tableau, 1930's

The collection is housed in custom made display cases, pictured above is a section dedicated to German makers of toy soldiers.

The toy soldiers and miniature figures are arranged according to important makers, and manufacturing country. 

Detail of the terrain table and soldiers in The Charles Stewart Gallery for all to play with.

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. 

Louisville Ballet members interacting with figures on one of 3 portable terrain tables during the gallery's grand opening,

Kentucky Proud

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.

The Kentucky Derby diorama depicting the fastest 10 horses in Kentucky Derby history between 1930 and 1950,  11 horses featured  as 2 horses ran the same time.  Made by Barclay Manufacturing Co. of New Jersey.  Painted in 1992 by Dr. William Schneider.

The Louisville Citizen's Guard, 1858-1860. Specially commissioned for the Frazier in 2011, a gift from Morton Sachs. 

Detail of the Louisville Citizen's Guard Unit Made in 2011 by  Martin Ritchie Mfg. 

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.

Unknown maker, Germany. Demi Round Scottish figures.

Unknown maker, Germany. Red Coat Flats.

Unknown maker, Germany. Red Coat Flats.

Elastolin, Germany, Prussian/German WWI composition figures

Milton Bradley, United States. Black Watch Set.

Dufor, France. Large scale French figures.

Unknown maker, France, French sailors,  c. 1850-1860.

Unknown maker, France, French sailors,  c. 1850-1860.

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.

Civilians Version Two, W. Britain set #168, 1925 Originally named “Civilians” when issued, the title of the set was changed to “Pedestrians” around 1926. W. Britain miniatures were well known for being up to date on trends in military and civilian clothing. The set displayed is the second version featuring females in popular late 1920s style flapper dresses.

Civilians Version Two, W. Britain set #168, 1925

Originally named “Civilians” when issued, the title of the set was changed to “Pedestrians” around 1926. W. Britain miniatures were well known for being up to date on trends in military and civilian clothing. The set displayed is the second version featuring females in popular late 1920s style flapper dresses.

Scots Guards Display, W. Britains set #130 1906-1941

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.

The Märklin "Deutchland", WWI German Battleship, 1912, 34 inches long. Malcolm Forbes Collection. 

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.

Vertunni, Officer 7th Hussars

Heyde, United States 22nd Regiment Infantry Line in winter dress, c. 1880


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! 

German WWI Submarine with brass windup key, 1915, 22 inches long. Made by Märklin.  

Barclay, United States, 1935-1951. West Point Cadet Dimestore Figures.


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.