What Goes Around, Comes Around

What Goes Around, Comes Around

Box exterior. The Strong, Rochester, New York.As Chief Curator for The Strong, I start each morning with a to-do list and an idea of what I’m hoping to accomplish, but I can’t always picture what will turn up in the course of a day. Sometimes an unsolicited package turns up as part of the day’s mail delivery. In this instance, the elaborate decoration on the cardboard box gave me some hints as to what might be lurking inside.

Sure enough, when I opened the box, I discovered a brand new edition of a classic toy—Spirograph. Seeing the Spirograph set sent me back to my own childhood when my sister and I enjoyed one of the original Spirographs that Kenner introduced to the U.S. in 1967. Spirograph set, 2017, gift of Kahootz, LLC. The Strong, Rochester, New York.Kathy and I must’ve received our Spirograph about the same year. Typically, our parents favored less-expensive, unbranded toys that didn’t receive heavy promotion on Saturday morning cartoons. But, with Spirograph, Kenner had a unique product in the marketplace. Its British engineer inventor, Denys Fisher, had spent years toying around with hypocycloids—a point fixed on a circle that rolls around inside the circumference of another circle. The plastic gears and rings of Spirograph first appeared at the 1965 Nuremberg Toy Fair, and that’s where Kenner snapped up the American rights to a toy that was good clean mathematically based fun—but let kids produce astonishing swirling designs, perfectly suited to the psychedelic patterns then all the rage in popular culture.

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The Picnic Tradition: Playing Together and Staying Together

The Picnic Tradition: Playing Together and Staying Together

Labor Day weekend will be filled with the lighting of grills, the balancing of over-filled paper plates on knees, and the splashing of feet in lakes and pools. It’s prime picnic time in America! People have been picnicking for more than 500 years. The French term “pique-nique” first appeared in print in 1694, referring to…

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Teetotums

Teetotums

“Are you a child or a teetotum?” a creature asks Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass (1871). The bewildered Alice can’t think what to say in reply. Spun from one mad adventure to another, she might well resemble the iconic “teetotum,” or spinning top, that was used in 19th-century board games. Today, most board…

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The Myth of the Magical Summer: The Tropes, Transformations, and Transitions of American Childhood

The Myth of the Magical Summer: The Tropes, Transformations, and Transitions of American Childhood

“Summer just opens the door and lets you out.” Deb Caletti, Honey, Baby, Sweetheart The front of a school building shimmers in the sun. A loud bell rings. The doors burst open and a flood of children spills out, cheering and tossing papers into the air. This image, used to the point of cliché, signals…

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Rack ‘Em Up

Rack ‘Em Up

I grew up in a small town with a population of roughly 5,000. It may not look it now, but it was once booming with activity and businesses. A basket factory and a canning factory ranked among the major employers. Then the train quit making stops in town. Without convenient access to supplies, factories slowly…

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Gotta Catch ‘Em All!

Gotta Catch ‘Em All!

Since last summer, you may have noticed small groups of millennials walking briskly toward landmarks surrounded by people staring intently at their smartphone screens. Every now and then, cries of delight or disdain erupt from the gatherers. “Oh good, a Snorlax!” someone murmurs appreciatively. “Just another Rattata!” another person groans. These folks aren’t speaking in…

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Nerf Ball

Nerf Ball

“Stop playing with that ball inside the house! You’re going to break something—take it outside!” Those are familiar phrases that I heard when I was younger, and I am sure many other children can relate. What helped alter parental attitudes towards indoor ball play? Well, that would be the introduction of the Nerf ball, a…

The Eyes Have It

The Eyes Have It

When The Strong museum recently acquired a Shirley Temple doll from the 1930s, it went to the museum’s doll conservator Darlene Gengelbach for treatment. These dolls have sleep eyes that open and close with metal rockers. The rocker is a spindle attached to the inside of the doll’s head with a small weight attached to…

Attention Trekkies: Star Trek Tridimensional Chess!

Attention Trekkies: Star Trek Tridimensional Chess!

In 2015 David Howe, an avid chess enthusiast in Rochester, donated 40 different variations of chess sets to The Strong’s permanent collection. Howe’s gift included 4-Way Chess for four players, 3 Man Chess in the Round, Grand Chess, Knightmare Chess, and Stealth Chess to name just a few. A chess purist might ask, why tamper…

Good to Go: Playful Ways to Get Around

Good to Go: Playful Ways to Get Around

It seems that now, perhaps more than ever, people everywhere are constantly on the go. Traveling to work or school, the gym, or the grocery store—the list goes on and on. We eat on the run, drink coffee on the run, and even get our information on the run thanks to smartphones that make emails,…