The Most Amazing Collection of French Vintage Toys

Felix le Chat vintage toys from 1925

Felix le Chat 1925

France’s Museum of Decorative Arts has digitized a great library of vintage toys (or ‘jouets’ as they whimsically call them). It is utterly comprehensive and wonderful. If any Decorative Arts librarians and curators happen to be reading this now, I will alphabetize your card catalog in exchange for a free flight. For everyone else, I must warn you that this post will take you down a rabbit hole of clickery, so allow time to explore! Moving along…

Polly the Swimmer vintage toys from 1950

Polly the Swimmer 1950

The Decorative Arts toy collection dates back to 1905 when the museum opened, and it now includes some 12,000 vintage toys, mainly of French and German origins from the late nineteenth century through World War II. After 1945, the collection opened up to toys manufactured in the U.S., Japan and China. In 1985, the museum’s permanent gallery of international vintage toys opened to the public. The following year, in 1986, they began the documentation about which you are currently reading. To create the elaborate archive, the museum consulted with a ton of professional organizations.

Discovery Center 1977

Discovery Center 1977

Why toys? Well, I couldn’t say it better than they already did:

They tell the story of a society and its evolution. They reflect fluctuations in the economy, technological change and the development of new materials. They echo scientific findings, as well as great moments in history. They are, through the centuries, a reflection of everyday life. Thus the collection of toys naturally finds its place in the collections of the Museum of Decorative Arts.

Essentially: toys tell stories.

Little Chef vintage toys from 1904

Little Chef 1904

The museum has a particularly interesting selection of “noisy toys,” including 37 “princely rattles,” a great grouping of music boxesthese “awakening tables”,  musical “weeble wobbles,” and “La Fanfare“.

The rattle is certainly the oldest of noisy toys. The collection of Decorative Arts is rich with an outstanding collection of 37 princely rattles from XVIII th and XIX th century Italy and France. They are presented cases like beautiful jewelry. The rattles are made ​​of silver, coral, bone, red, ivory. When the bells come alive or when it whistles, it distracts the child. The coral handle relieves a teething child who bites.

Pretty AND practical!

Musical Peacock 1980s

Musical Peacock 1980s

In addition to beautiful photos and exhaustive information, the kicker is that they’ve recorded and embedded the sounds of the little noisemakers. For instance, click to listen to two different sounds made by this Tom Thumb and Little Red Riding Hood rattle (circa 1930s France), this Musical Peacock (circa 1980s France), a Cat with a Tambourine (circa 1950s France), this 1970s US Fisher Price Discovery Center (complete with 5 sounds to be played all at once), a 1920s US Dolly Rolly Clown and this sour-faced rattle (date unknown).

Cat with Tambourine vintage toys 1950

Cat with Tambourine 1950

Here’s how you fall down the Internet rabbit hole in a few simple clicks. Come for the toys, and click through to the imagery and typography of French 19th century poster art, elaborate drawings of various forms of seating from the 2nd half of the 19th century,  and wallpaper patterns from the the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

Collecting Apples toy art from 1930

Collecting Apples 1930

Start here: http://opac.lesartsdecoratifs.fr/search/apachesolr_search/jouet or go straight to 19th century toys and posters, or perhaps you prefer green toys “Apres Jesus Christ”?

Wage Uglydoll 2003

Wage Uglydoll 2003

Click through for a smattering of wonderful old toys!

Tom Thumb Rattle vintage toys 1930

Tom Thumb Rattle 1930

The Drunkard vintage toys 1899

The Drunkard 1899

Smurfette Weeble 1985

Smurfette Weeble 1985

Seaplane 1934

Seaplane 1934

Robot Fish 1965

Robot Fish 1965

Parisian Doll 1829

Parisian Doll 1829

Organ Grinder 1911

Organ Grinder 1911

Mechanical Footballer 1960

Mechanical Footballer 1960

Man with Drums 1907

Man with Drums 1907

Gay Violinist 1897

Gay Violinist 1897

French Infantry 1880

French Infantry 1880

Frozen Charlie 1880s

Frozen Charlie 1880s

Dolly Rolly Clown 1920

Dolly Rolly Clown 1920

Chocolate Clown 1900

Chocolate Clown 1900

Child Puppet 1916

Child Puppet 1916

Bear with Drum 1955

Bear with Drum 1955

Bear Puppet 1990

Bear Puppet 1990

Cat 1970

Cat 1970

Cabbage Patch Kid 1982

Cabbage Patch Kid 1982

Duck with Roller Skates 1940

Duck with Roller Skates 1940

Mommy and Child Turtle 1986

Mommy and Child Turtle 1986

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