|Dates:||circa 1937-circa 1940|
|Size:||5 linear feet in 5 boxes, plus 1 oversize artifact|
|Repository:||Chicago Public Library, Harold Washington Library Center, Special Collections, 400 S. State Street, Chicago, IL 60605|
|Immediate Source of Acquisition:||Transferred by the Chicago Park District in 2014.|
|Conditions Governing Access:||Materials are open without restrictions.|
|Conditions Governing Use:||Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.|
|Preferred Citation:||When quoting material from this collection the preferred citation is: Chicago Park District Toy Collection, [Item #], Special Collections, Chicago Public Library|
|Finding Aid Author:||Johanna Russ 2022|
Beginning around 1937, the Chicago Park District established Toy Centers in its fieldhouses as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) program to provide playthings for families that could not afford toys of their own during the Great Depression. This collection includes 78 wooden toys created for the Chicago Park District’s Toy Centers.
Beginning around 1937, the Chicago Park District established Toy Centers in its fieldhouses as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) program to help alleviate the burdens of the Great Depression. The program provided playthings for families that could not afford toys of their own. Conceived as libraries where children could check out toys to play with at home and return them, these facilities also quickly became “toy play centers.” Children spent hours in fieldhouses playing with the toys with other kids. Park District employees and adult craft class participants made the toys, and when toys broke, staff took them to the Park District’s “toy hospital” for repair. The nationally influential program lasted at least until 1940, when mention of it stops appearing in the Chicago Park District annual reports.
Scope and Contents
This collection includes 78 wooden toys created for the Chicago Park District’s Toy Centers. Figurines of people, farm and circus animals; doll house furniture; and a Sternhalma (also known as Chinese Checkers) game board appear. Of note are figurines of people in traditional dress from Russia and Africa that illustrate stereotypes held at the time.
Items are arranged alphabetically by type.
- Chicago Park District Records: Drawings
- Chicago Park District Records: Photographs
- Zarah G. Zechman Kanief Papers
- John O'Shea Scrapbook
- David Phillips: Chicago Park District Photographs
- Chicago Park District (Chicago, Ill.)
- Toys--Social aspects--United States--History--20th century.
- United States. Works Progress Administration (Ill.)
|Box 1||2022.22||Boat with pegs, likely from a set||circa 1937-circa 1940|
|Box 4||2022.20.1-2||Circus horse figurines, 2 figures||circa 1937-circa 1940|
|Box 5||2022.9.1-6||Cow figurines, 6 figures||circa 1937-circa 1940|
|Box 3||2022.18.1-6||Chicken figurines, 6 figures||circa 1937-circa 1940|
|Box 5||2022.8.1-10||Doll house furniture, 10 pieces, chairs, sofas, tables||circa 1937-circa 1940|
|Box 1-3||2022.23.1-4||Elephant figurines, 4 figures||circa 1937-circa 1940|
|Box 5||2022.14.1-6||Farm family figurines including adults and children, 6 figures||circa 1937-circa 1940|
|Box 2-3||2022.19.1-9||Figurines of people in traditional dress of Africa. Depicts stereotypes. Figurine of elephants. 9 figures||circa 1937-circa 1940|
|Box 2, 3, 5||2022.16.1-9||Figurines of people in traditional dress of Russia. Depicts stereotypes. Russian castle. 9 figures||circa 1937-circa 1940|
|Box 3||2022.17.1-3||Goose figurines, 3 figures||circa 1937-circa 1940|
|Box 5||2022.11.1-3||Horse figurines, 3 figures||circa 1937-circa 1940|
|Box 4||2022.13.1-7||Kitchen playset, 7 piece, scale, pots, pans, bowl||circa 1937-circa 1940|
|Box 5||2022.15.1-6||Pig figurines, 6 figures||circa 1937-circa 1940|
|Box 5||2022.10.1-3||Sheep figurines, 3 figures||circa 1937-circa 1940|
|Cabinet C1-15||2022.24||Sternhalma (also known as Chinese Checkers) game board||circa 1937-circa 1940|
|Box 5||2022.12||Unidentified orange square with hole in it, probably a piece from a stacking toy||circa 1937-circa 1940|
|Box 1||2022.21||Wheeled car with pegs, likely from a train set||circa 1937-circa 1940|