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French tin toy


This is a book about tin toys. French tin toys specifically as there’s very little published and shown of these wonderful romantic toys which were produced in the second half of 19th century when the production of toys radically changed. It was the beginning of the industrial revolution when by steam and electricity driven large machines were introduced in the production of toys. So far toys were handmade of wood and rather primitive, as described and shown by Henry D'Allemagne in his book Histoire des Jouets published in 1900. Sometimes toys were made on order by individual tinsmiths. But in the space of sixty years the industry in Europe expanded and diversified and in France the period was called "La Belle Epoque" (1871-1914) or "The golden Age" In this period the increased use of machines and new techniques of metal casting and engraving but also the buying power of large portions of the population caused prosperity in France and Paris in particular. This allowed the arts to florish and many masterpieces of literature, music and visual art gained recognition. This was also the case for toys. Traditional toys were perfected and new toys were invented. Thanks to new machines driven by steampower which could rol iron, zinc and copper into sheets and than cut, perforate or stamped out of these sheets, the shape of toys became more graceful without any loss of the solidity which it needed to withstand the rigours of play. At the same time all avenues of fantasy and imagination of reality were opened to exploration. In this golden age everything was possible and the humor, the imagination and the ingenuity of the craftsman could be seen everywhere. This was clearly shown in the toy industry, where toys were more the invention of the tinsmith than a refection of reality. This book will show a significant hommage to their artistry, reflecting a certain kind of artisan naïvety that never returned to Europe after the World War II made an end to this era. The realism and sophistication of the French toys can open fascinating windows through which to view French history itself. Today, one and a half century later, those toys that escaped the ultimate fate of destruction have been given a new life by collectors and museums. In the era of technology the present kids don’t play with "dangerous" tin toys anymore and they have lost their usefulness as a toy for a child. But they have gained instead the pleasant antiquated grace of nostalgia. The passage of time has given them poetry and a soul, and their second existence is a calm and contemplative one, carefully exhibited in collectors showcases and in toy museum displays. Through this book I want to show not only the toy collector, but also those who are not familiar with these nostalgic antique French tin toys, the richness of this imaginary world. A world of toys which are often frozen moments in time. And more than in any other country in Europe where toys were manufactured, they were artistically picturing what was developing in France, technically and culturally in daily life. This book deals mainly with factory-made toys. A few "workshop" tin toys are included as they were probably built to order by local craftsman for a family or an exhibition. It all came to an abrupt end with the beginning of the First World War.