By JoAnn Zeis, Curator of Cultural History
What is your favorite toy of all time? Was it one of the popular toys that help define a generation, like a Slinky, Tickle Me Elmo, Lite-Brite, Atari 2600 or an American Girl Doll? Perhaps your favorite toy was handmade, like a doll or wooden truck?
Our latest mini-exhibition, Let’s Play! Timeless 20th Century Toys, focuses on some of the more iconic toys in our collection, like G.I. Joe, Tinkertoys, Barbie, and others. During the 20th century, relatively cheap, mass-produced toys like these helped define ideas of childhood and play. You are invited to explore these toys in this mini-exhibition, walk down memory lane and perhaps ponder how toys might have shaped and influenced us.
The exhibition also features some locally made toys. In 1960, the Horseman Doll factory, established in 1865, moved from New York City to Cayce, South Carolina. By 1965 they had 700 employees and made 20,000 dolls in 1,000 different models. They were the oldest and largest doll manufacturer in America. They closed the factory in 1986.
Another toy made in South Carolina was manufactured by the Congaree Toy Company, created by T.I Weston and Barnie McEntire. They built and sold the toys out of Weston’s shop on Millwood Avenue in Columbia. The men were pilots during World War II. Weston went to earn a mechanical engineering degree from Clemson. McEntire continued as a pilot with the Air National Guard. He died in 1960 when his malfunctioning F-104 Star Fighter crashed into the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. McEntire airfield was named in his honor.