Toys From the Field

Toys From the Field

This is another episode from the first season of FOLKWAYS in 1982. While most of the artists in that first series are no longer with us, this is a chance to visit them again and see some of the very best and authentic folk art practiced in the southern Appalachians. Although the production tools available then can't match the quality of today's digital video, it's still a fascinating look back at part of our cultural heritage.

Life was rugged in the southern mountains, but it was far from bleak. People put the same creativity that went into carving a living from the land into their entertainment, including making toys for their children.

Willard Watson is both a toy maker extraordinaire and something of a professional character. His carved toys are full of unique details....stage coaches pulled by shod horses in leather harness, carved men with moveable legs and full-dress costumes, and mechanicals such as a man chasing a bouncing pig. As Watson says, one of the great satisfactions of life comes from knowing "the things we're doing now is gonna linger on."

May Ritchie Deschamps elevated the craft of making cornhusk dolls into a high art. She adds carefully created details of crochet collars, parasols, baskets, and hats. Prized by collectors throughout the country, her dolls cradle babies in their arms, churn milk and play dulcimers.

Old Salem Toy Museum

The Old Salem Toy Museum houses an extensive collection of antique toys from a wide range of time periods and places. Located at the former Gallery at Old Salem, this full-time toy museum exhibits the collections held by the Gallery and the generous gifts of Anne and Thomas Gray.

Exhibits span 1700 years of toys from 225 A.D. to 1925 A.D and are placed in context to those that were owned and used by the Moravians who settled Salem, NC. The Moravian toy exhibit includes a unique collection of wooden German toys and locally made dolls. Other exhibits include Romano-English and Elizabethan toys excavated from London's Thames River, mementos of a time when neither children nor their toys enjoyed long life spans. Silver, brass and ivory miniatures sparkle in a 1740 aristocratic baby house, while bronze and carved wooden firearms allow children the chance to mimic the warriors of an earlier day.

The museum also includes board games, puzzles and other parlor toys from the 19 th century. Hand painted dollhouses, elaborately furnished with every conceivable luxury, are prize collectibles beside the miniature kitchens and general stores. Wooden toys imported from the cottage industries near Nuremberg are exhibited in a German Toy Shop. The museum also houses a vast collection of zoos and circuses, puppets, horse-drawn carriage toys and tin airplanes modeled on the Wright Brothers model.


Old Salem Toy Museum
Antique toy displays in Winston-Salem.

Toymaking from
Instructional guides and articles on toymaking, including links.

Institute of Toy Making Technology
ITMT is a registered society engaged in training for toy manufacturing and toy business and extending all sorts of support for manufacturing and exporting of toys by the units set up by its trainees.