stirn-catalog

If you have the Carl P. Stirn Turn-of-the-Century Dolls, Toys and Games catalog, not only can you spend many pleasant moments wondering how exactly the frankly disturbing “Arab pattern mirrors” (page 119) could ever be a toy for anybody, you can also gorge on illustrated representations of the “Game of Stanley in Africa” (“lithographed in harmonious colors,” and would you accept it any other way?), or the “Game of Literary Women,” which is a “fine card game played on the Authors principle” (don’t get me started).  Or just go gaga over the metal kaleidoscopes, pasteboard bigotophones, McGinty Surprise Watch (“nickel, with chains,” but I’d buy it for the name alone), or the various wooden stables that are to die for.

Or, you could turn to page 86, and see there the “Mystic Wanderer” game, which looks pretty much like a Ouija set-up, with a square planchette. And then you could start thinking of all those times when you and your friends played Ouija – or when, daringly, you opened the box alone – and put your hands to that planchette while everyone always, always swore that It’s not me! I’m not moving it!

What else is a toy that isn’t a toy? Besides all those darling little tea sets, but that’s outside my purview.

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