Monday, November 26, 2012

A wonderful old toy: the Blackboard Easel

     In my toy collection, I have two blackboard easels that I love. You may recognize this toy from your grandparents, parents or your own childhood. I have one that belonged to my mother which probably dates to the 1920s. I received mine in the late 1940s when I was about 6 years old. Both of my sisters then played with it. I recall we used it to play school as well as to draw on and use as a desk.
     Here is my mother's easel:

Clearly my mother's was made during wartime, as the roll
contains several views of wartime machinery, ships, and

Several scrolled views are devoted to teaching arithmetic.
This one deals with a topic that often gave school children
difficulties -- fractions.

Here a reading readiness view teaches the basic words and
then substitutes pictures for more unknown words. This one
was very seasonal if the easel was a Christmas gift, dealing
with Santa, his home and his habits.

Compare these Wonderland drawings to similar fanciful
drawings on my easel below, 10 to 15 years more modern.

Some drawing instructions and patterns for use in drawing
or on the blackboard.

Some drawing and craft instruction.

Various US flags and patriotic symbols are pictured.

          The Richmond School Furniture Company was founded by a Quaker attorney named William Foulke Spencer in Richmond, Indiana in 1892. It made school desks, bookcases, benches, chalkboards, etc. (Spencer had formerly partnered with another furniture company that was destroyed by fire.) At the same time he formed the American Lawn Mower Company and the two businesses shared facilities. The companies moved to Muncie in 1902 to be nearer the recently discovered natural gas sources, so we know that your chalkboard was made after that date. The company stayed in business, essentially producing the same sort of things, until the mid 20th century. (The American Lawn Mower Company is still in business today!)

     Here are some photos from my Blackboard Easel, probaby of late 1940s or early 1950s vintage. Some of the paper scroll views are in color which were black and white earlier. There are more modern military views and not as many as on the previous version. And some views of cars and other technology have advanced.

     I have seen the vintage easel such as belonged to my mother on sale online for a requested $125.00. But my mother's may be worth more since the paper educational scroll though torn is all present. In the case of my more recent piece, the paper scroll is entriely intact. Both are otherwise in good shape. I have seen the more modern version selling of $50.00. I do believe that a lot of these were made over the years. They were produced probably until the 1960s or so.

     Here are some still photos of my later version of the easel.


     I also didn't realize that I had mounted a video of me scrolling the educational roll on my easel in a 2010 post on this blog. If you would like to see more of the scroll views you can turn to that blog of mine. It was posted on 12/10/2010.





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