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…
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.
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.
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.