Small Talk Tag: Inspiration

First-Class Miniatures

Gingerbread House Stamps

Every December, we get pretty excited to see the latest gingerbread house creations that pop up on social media. After all, they are miniature structures, and they’re covered in candy and frosting! Miniature artist Teresa Layman is well-known for her intricately sweet houses—she’s even written a couple books on how to make them yourself.

Several years back, Layman asked her local postmaster about how postage stamp designs were chosen. The process begins with the submission of ideas to the Citizen’s Advisory Stamp Committee, and then a lot of waiting. Luckily, Layman’s postmaster put her in contact with a Postal Service stamps photographer who just happened to live a mile away. The photographer, Sally Andersen-Bruce, worked with Layman and USPS art director Derry Noyes over the course of a couple years to create a winning combination of four perfectly delectable gingerbread houses for the 2013 holiday season. How sweet is that!?
Photo: USPS.com

Dollhouse Therapy

Dollhouses for Kids Battling Cancer

What started as a hobby, became a cause and grew into a movement. In 2006, a woman named Ann made her first dollhouse. Having enjoyed making it, but having no real purpose for it, she sold it at a loss. Her daughter, who was working with children undergoing chemo at the nearby hospital, suggested that next time she donate it to the hospital.

In no time, Dollhouses For Kids Battling Cancer was born. As of 2014, Ann had made and donated more than 336 dollhouses to children in 21 states, and even Canada! Several businesses have partnered with Ann to provide her with supplies, including The Magical Dollhouse.

But Ann couldn’t get the dollhouses to the kids without the help of her “Dollhouse Delivery Angels.” She has 105 angels in 37 states that help transport the dollhouses from Ann’s home in New York across the country. Each angel drives an average of 489 miles to deliver dollhouses. We think they’re all angels; check out Ann’s Facebook page to see how you can join their ranks!
Photo: Courtesy of Dollhouses For Kids Battling Cancer.

Time’s Most Influential Toys

Time Magazine Most Influential

Last year, Time magazine interviewed toy historians and experts to come up with the most influential toys of all time. They defined influential as toys that had the biggest impact on the toy industry and the world at large.

The list included a lot of toys that were “firsts:” Chatty Cathy was the first talking doll. G.I. Joe was the first doll for boys… oops… we mean “action figure.” The Easy Bake Oven allowed kids to make edible food for the first time. Doc McStuffins was the first black doll to become popular among kids of all races. And Cabbage Patch dolls were the first toys not tied to popular culture that everyone had to have.

Others like Leap Pad, Rubik’s Cube, View-Master, Star Wars figurines, Super Soaker, Nerf Bow and Arrow, Barbie, and LEGO made the list for their sheer popularity, for becoming not only toys, but collectibles, or for starting a movement. That’s a powerful bunch of toys.

A Bear in Brooklyn

michtom teddy bear

You might be familiar with the story of how the teddy bear was named after President Theodore Roosevelt. After refusing to shoot a defenseless (and already maimed) bear, the incident was forever immortalized in a November 1903 newspaper cartoon. The compassionate depiction of Roosevelt captured the hearts of Americans, including a particular Russian Jewish immigrant couple in New York.

Shop owners Morris and Rose Michtom ran a small penny goods store in Brooklyn. After seeing the famous newspaper cartoon, Rose was so inspired she created a plush bear to put in their store window and named him “Teddy’s bear.” Dozens of shoppers began asking if the bear was for sale, and Rose became worried about marketing an item using the president’s name, so Morris mailed the original to the White House with a letter asking permission. Roosevelt doubted it would matter much and consented, giving rise to one of the most famous toys in history. Today, one of the original Michtom bears is in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
Photo: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center.

All Hail the Marble King

Marble King Marbles

It’s probably no surprise that most of the toys we play with today aren’t made in America anymore. What might be surprising to hear is that some U.S. toy companies are still going strong! In Paden City, West Virginia, Marble King has been manufacturing marbles since 1949. Founder Barry Pink had made a living selling marbles for over 30 years when he decided to jump into the manufacturing business during the heyday of the marble-playing craze.

While “knuckling down” may not have the same appeal for today’s kids as it did in the 20th century, the secret to Marble King’s success might be their ability to diversify. It turns out marbles have many different uses that aren’t all fun and games. For instance, marbles can be used to clean out industrial pipes. And you know that rattling noise inside a spray paint can? Yep, it’s a marble—likely made by Marble King.
Photo: Courtesy of Marble King.

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