Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cast Iron Horses and Wagons

Monday, November 5, 2012

Cast Iron Horses and Wagons


     For today's post, I decided to return to icollector and Morphy Auctions. I had had my eyes on cast iron drivers, horses and wagons when I had used images from the same auction for another blog. So today, I returned to that same auction.

    As usual, the toys had me recall certain memories from the past. But for today, I'm going tadd my comments below the image.

    I was surprised that for most of the items of this auction, the sold prices were quite reasonable considering the age of the toys. However, not all toys or collectibles are in big demand, as I have learned. My late mother Ida used to needlepoint in her spare time. That was "rare"as both she an my father worked from daily, and even on weekends and evenings. They were in the catering business.  For those who do not know, needlepoint is a method of sewing wool on to a canvas that has been laid out with a smaller wool in the pattern of the scene. On the less-expensive needlepoints, the layout is painted on. My mother would do most of her work from a company called Jolleo (I will correct the spelling in the future). This is an Austrian company that still is in existence, and still makes a fine product. However, you had to have lots of time, skill and patience in order to finish a canvas. My mother would do these large and ornate canvases  24" x 30" (610mm x 760mm) that could take up to a year to finish. 

    My father passed away in 1977, and my mother in 1986, and so myself and my other 3 siblings were left with sharing her and my fathers possessions. We split everything up, but the needlepoints weren't selected by my sister and 2 bothers.  I kept them and had them until today (Saturday, November 3, 2012). At one time I though tof selling them on E-Bay - but there was no demand there. I phoned a famous store in Montreal called Jeannette's, but they don't purchase finished canvases. The owner's wife suggested that I could have the items evaluated, and then donate them to a bazaar for the people to raise money. That would cost to assess,and I had promised my older cousins 1 canvas each. I phoned 1 of them, and she came over, and I decided to give them all to her and my other cousin. She remembered one that I had on the wall that was my favourite - a Manet landscape near the ocean circa 1900's. I gave her that one as well. 

     My memories of my parents and my late brother are always with me, and a day doesn't go by where I don't remember them. As for my 2 cousins, they'll get pleasure out of them , and my mother's memory will remain with someone else whenever someone looks at those fine needlepoints.

Cast Iron Wagons and Horses

     Most of the toys below are what are called "pull toys". A piece of twine (cord or rope) would be attached to the front of the horses, and pulled along the road, the street, or the sidewalk.

Before the invention of train, I assume long caravans of  wagons and horses and drivers would go from town to town with the circus. Eventually, the trains took over and save the owners time. There were many circus companies in the mid 1800's in the USA and I also assume Europe, but by the 1950's, there were probably 5 players left. In the USA, there were Barnam & Bailey's and The Ringling Brothers. There were even a few movies made about the circus, with 1 having Burt Lancaster in it.

From my perspective, there are several interesting things to note. The first is that if you actually do any research on these circus toys, you'll see at least 20 different animals being pulled by a similar wagon, driver, and horses. For me, that's interesting that companies could make so many toys similar to one another, but with a slight difference - the animals in the

Another interesting thing is that different companies could produce quite similar items, and you I haven' read about any one company suing another for  copyright. Yet recently, Apple sued  Samsung and vice-versa over patent and copyright infringements. Part of the Apple lawsuit against Samsung was for "rounded corners" of the Samsung cell phone! What's "funny" to me is that Apple is now making smaller Ipads and larger IPhones. Do I sense more lawsuits here!

By the mid 1700's Europe and Great Britain had lost most of their arboreal forests to houses, firewood, ships and so forth. North America, discovered in the late 1400's eventually lost her great forests by the early 1900's.  

I like to add "trivia" or personal interest to my blog, so naturally forests and wood are one of my interests. I am always in awe when I go to "Old Montreal" and look inside some of the revitalized old buildings. You can see wood beams made from 1 piece of wood measuring 30' x  14" x 14" (about 9m x 360mm x 360mm). I thing its' 14" x 14" because I never measured them. Near our capital Ottawa, there were huge forests with huge trees that were harvested with horses and oxen in winter and then floated down the river in the spring, to the mills. 

In the last 20 years, there has been a new type of forestry, if one can call it that. Divers have been harvesting old sunken logs. Logs at the bottom of rivers in North America remained intact and in excellent condition. The reason for this is the fact that the cold water prevented bacterial decay and rotting. Since these are original 150-200 year old logs, they are long and large, and yield good returns on the investment.

You'll probably have noticed that there are Negro figures in many of these horse and wagon toys. 
I would assume that the majority of the labourers at  the time were in fact Negroes, and as such were depicted in the toys. THis is a much better representation people that some of the early toys from the USA and even Germany depicting stereotypes of Black People. It bothers me to see these toys, and they're sold everywhere. What bothers me more is when the original catalogue title is used in the description of the toy for sale. I don't know if I can write a post about that for now, and I'm 63 years old!

What's interesting about this toy is how the wagon is arched. Sometimes, on the highway, you'll see large flatbed rigs with heavy machinery such as steam shovels. Their design is also arched, I guess to bear the heavy loads that they carry. Another thing that you might find interesting is the design of the "wheels" on the front feet of the horses or mules. 

There are basically 3 types:

1. The sold wheel that does not turn
2. A solid wheel with a screw in the centre attached to the foot.
3. An actual wheel with an axle, and ribs and  a screw.

I can actually remember a delivery man when we rented a country house in Mississquoi Bay in the 1950's, and when I was between 6-12 years old. The ice boxes held a large block of ice to cool down the fresh meat and produce. The block of ice would actually last 3-5 days in that box, as the unit was very well designed. Before electricity, ice would be cut from rivers and kept in large storage houses in the city or country. 

I went fishing by myself in the 1960's in Northern Quebec, to a place called Dorval Lodge that was in a provincial Park called "La Verendrye".  Dorval lodge was about a 4 hour bus ride from Montreal, and I thought I'd catch monster pike and walleye. At first I took a guide, who always took me for a 1 hour ride to the one end of the lake. I always wondered if there were any fish near the lodge. Also this lake was artificial, having been flooded to make way for progress - a dam called Dojois.

What was interesting was that I late July and Early August, the fish tat I caught were kept in large wooden boxes on ice with  sawdust. The ice had been cut in the previous winter! So imagine that before electricity, that's how people kept their food fresh!

If you've ever seen an American western movie, you'll have seen one of these in the movie.  The wagon was called a "covered wagon", or Prairie Schooner". It was the major transport of Americans and Immigrants as the USA was settled westward to the Pacific.  There was also a similar wagon called the Conestoga wagon that made it's way westward.

I never seem to tire of looking for old toys. I especially like the memories that they bring up, and I like the simplicity of the toys,especially when compared with todays toys. The colours also are bright and cheerful.

Thanks for dropping by, 
and have a great week, wherever you may be.


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