Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wonderful 1850 Sand Toy~ A Diamond in the Rough.............


I am so excited about this little toy I just had to share it with you all! Above, you can see my little Diamond in the Rough that I found on eBay. Seller didn't know what it was, I kinda knew what it was....meaning that I could remember seeing something similar, but at that time couldn't remember just where.... Seller had said there was sand leaking from the box, which I found very intriguing so I bought it anyway, it was so utterly charming!

When my little prize came in the post, poor girl was a MESS. She was just taken, box and all~ loose cover glass and platform glass, and put in a zip lock bag. geeze. Its a miracle she made it to me with just a broken arm. Amazing. After staring at her a bit, I remembered where I had seen one of these now~ the Mary Merritt Museum sale catalogue! Yep, lot 132 was a wonderful little sand toy! Little hand colored paper doll was on a wire, and me being a curious sort, I found the weakest area of her box, pryed it out a bit, and voi-la! Side popped open and I could clearly see the workings. The entire time I keep saying to myself~ 'wow~this is SO neat~ really amazing!'

One thing I could tell for certain, was that the box had never been opened before. Everything was original, except for a single piece of black electrical tape on the back, which was doing absolutely nothing, so it came off first thing! I was very careful to just sit with a flashlight and examine what was inside...there was a funnel shape cone at one end, I could see the wire that dollye was hooked to, a little pin hole at the bottom of the cone~ that's where the sand must pour out from...and nothing else but a neat paddle wheel made out of paper with a metal pin going thru the center.....well~ I am not rocket scientist, but I could tell the little wheel had been bumped and come out of the little socket it was resting in so it wouldn't turn......got my trusty needle nose pliers, placed it carefully back on its axis, and that was it!







Here you can clearly see the German print on the back of some of the lacquered paper the box was sealed with.


Once I was sure she was dancing to her little hearts content, I carefully glued the side of the box back in place


Mended her broken arm, and refit the little paper covered glass platform she dances on. This really makes a difference in her movements~ she is much more springy now than in the video~ she really hops and bops! Her feet, each suspended individually on their own little wire, bounce off of it and get her grooving. She is also jointed at the waist by means of wire


So I could leave the bottom of this area open, but the originals I have studied have a paper here~ hers would have originally had the green plaid paper continue down to the bottom of the box. It didn't look right to me leaving it empty, so I made my own little secret compartment here~ inside I wrote on a paper the date, and what I did to the box to get her working again, and sealed it inside I like the looks of it, and it is the ONLY part that I have added to this box~ everything else is original. I just happened to have a partial scrap of an 1849 Grahams book, with a hand marbled endpapers in just her colors~ now how is that for providence! Paper from the same period as when she was made, prolly why it looks so fitting....


As I went carefully around and re-glued all the separating papers, the top revealed a little secret. Under the thick paper, towards the back, was a hole about the size of half a quarter, that was open and directly above the sand funnel~ so obviously these were fully assembled, then filled with sand and the last bit of heavily lacquered paper was glued over the opening to seal it. NEAT!
Her cover glass horribly dirty.

But upon close inspection, I could see the remains of the original 'passe partout' embossed gold paper that trimmed the border of the glass front. really neat! All of the original ones I have seen, have a tissue paper border, usually scalloped, at the inside top of the glass, to which mine has just a minuscule amount left~ I decided to leave it as original & charming as it is~ showing its age of nearly 160 years.

* above photo copyright Victoria and ALbert Museum, London
I scoured the Internet trying to find out more information on my little sand toy~ and golly it wasn't easy! I found out from the Victoria & Albert Museum, that these are indeed very rare...so rare that they have only 3. The above picture is one they acquired from a NY Collection in 1999. Made in both France & Germany, the sand technology goes back to the ancient Egyptians. These toys were first made around 1800, and are extremely fragile and were easily broken and discarded. They also were not made in great numbers, so all this adds to their rarity. The Museum of London is said to have one, and the Castle Museum in York has one. I know from the catalogue that the Mary Merritt Doll & Toy Museum had one, but I don't know who won it or where it ended up.



Here is my girl, all ready to perform again. It really is a wonder how she survived all this time~ these are SO very fragile! They weren't kidding at the V& A when they said 'they don't travel well'.... If you ever see one, snatch it up in a heartbeat~ once you hold one, and see and feel and hear it working, you will be mesmerized by its charms just as I have been!

12 comments:

Robin's Egg Bleu said...

WOW! What a treat, thanks for sharing...I'd never heard of such a thing. Just beautiful.

Vande Historic Costuming said...

What an absolute darling she is! I wonder, like 'Hitty', what her story would be like up until she found you..? Do you think she breathed a sigh of relief to have found someone who knew and appreciated her?

Rachael Kinnison said...

HI Girls! Thanks for visiting! Yes~ she is very precious, and Erin~ I think she IS relieved to be home here~ she sure does dance with alot of happy spirit! i can see how a little one would be amazed by her~ Pip thinks she is the BEST, and she is a modern child with TV and computers all all those interesting mind catching things...I have oft thought it wouold be a real neat experiment, to put up a line up of early toys, and modern electronic ones, and let the children go in and study which toys they actually find interesting and play with~ I BET it would be the earlier toys over the electronic ones hands down!
xoxoxxoox rachael

......Thimblefolk.......Barb McNamara said...

Oh, Rachael. How wonderful. You find the best things!!

Barb

Suzanne said...

How neat is this?? You've really done a remarkable job restoring her and helping her continue with her "dancing career"!
I hope you and your precious family has a wonderful Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year!

Carole said...

Oh, my, Rachael, this post is so interesting. I just love reading it and feeling and sharing your excitement in receiving this very wonderful treasure. I can not believe the way it was shipped. It's miraculous that it survived. This little dancer has been waiting to find her way to your house, that's for sure! You did an amazing job of refurbishing it, although it was in good condition for it's age and fragility. I can certainly see how difficult it was for them to survive. Another found treasure! Good for you!!
Carole xo

maminka girl- Loribeth Robare said...

What a wonderful treasure! Thanks for your patient restoration and for sharing. I would love to see a diagram of the internal workings. It would be so much fun to attempt to create such a beauty.

realpch said...

How cool is that?!! Absolutely charming, she dances so nicely. Your exposition is very much appreciated.

Prim and Proper Folks said...

That was so much fun to watch...what a treasure!!! Susan

The Rustic Victorian said...

How wonderful your blog is. I will be adding you to my list. I came over from your comment on The Old Pretenders. I have a sand toy reproduction, put out in the 1980's (I think) by Shackman. It has a cat/mouse theme, anyhow, I got it out and enjoyed it again. It seems to be moving a little slower now...maby moisture or rust inside..but it still performs. I have always been facinated by it, and wondered how it was made. How lucky for you to have yours and the restoration is wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing the information.
Marcie

mike said...

This was exteremly helpful! I have foun an item much like this in fact, an stumble upon this post because I am trying to repair it. I was wondering if you perhaps ha some additional photos of the inner workings? Mine is missing the wire that holds the girl, and I am hoping to make a new one, but for the life of me I can't figure out how it interacts with the paddle wheel on the inside! It appear that there is a nee for a counter weight from one of your photos. But Since you have taken one apart before, I was hoping maybe you had some insight!

Rachael Kinnison said...

Thanks for your comment Mike~ send me some pictures of your box and Ill see if I can help you get it working again! my email is rlkinnison[at]yahoo.com . The picture above of the wire is a good one~ it is actually attached to the wheel I am thinking if I remember right, is bent out at an angle and wrapped around several times in a little knot as you can see, bent back upon itself, then jets thru the board to the front and the figure is just sitting on it, with a little right angle crimp in the wire to hold it on~ so it is very wiggly jiggly. Be sure to look at the SHADOW of the wire in the picture, and youll see what I mean. Let me know if I can help any more~ :) rachael