3è Partie. A French Horse Racing Game – A bit of History (Part I: The toy industry) by Ségolène Girard

Restoration of a 19th c. lottery game by M.J & Cie.

3è Partie. A French Horse Racing Game – A bit of History (Part I: The toy industry) by Ségolène Girard

Seg is speaking !

First toys, and development through the centuries

Ox with casters, Sumer, Mesopotamy, 3rd millenium BC

Toys have always played a great role in the education of rich children as they were designed to prepare them to their future role in society, and this since antiquity with dolls, small horses, marbles, etc.

Children were asked from a very young age to act just like adults. Considering averages, girls would marry between 16 and 19, and young boys got in apprenticeship at 16, there was then no much time for droning, even in high society.

It is only during the 18th century in Europe, with the publishing of Émile or the Éducation by french philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, that people started to reconsider children status.

Chardin, House of Cards (88x66), National Gallery, London
Chardin, House of Cards, oil on canvas, (88×66), National Gallery, London

From that time on, games were seen as a way to get amusement while learning, and seemed to proved that they formed better workers. But because of prices, and the time that it takes to change the ways, it took more time to change the attitude towards children in the countryside.

By the 19th century it has reached quite every social classes, and the demand, with the industrial revolution in 1870 helping, contributed to the explosion of the production. Toy factories not only stretched their imagination to satisfy the customers, but also played with each other in an infernal competition at mondial scale. Incalculable patents were registered, and at World War I dawn, France, by its refinement and originality, and Germany with a cheap and diversified production, distinguished themselves as the best nations in the toy industry.

Timoléon Lobrichon (1831-1914), Children asleep (I was for long, and for obvious reasons pretty sure it was untitled "Battlefield" !, 73 x 118.5 cm
Timoléon Lobrichon (1831-1914), Children asleep (I was for long, and for obvious reasons, pretty sure it was untitled “Battlefield” !), Oil on canvas, (73 x 118.5 cm)

War was at their doors, but french and german factories did not wait for it to enter to start one of their own, involving spies and bribes. Toys being a way to teach children and to build the future adults, they became the perfect tool to pass messages just as printing shops were doing with posters, (that by the way also helped with the selling of toys as catalogues were printed, and especially at christmas) and took the shape of patriotic symbols. In an article of La revue des deux mondes from the 15th of may 1915, it can be read “Jouets français contre jouets allemands” (French toys against german toys).

Jean Geoffroy "Geo"(1853-1924), Le 14 juillet des petits écoliers Huile sur toile, (46 x 61 cm)
Jean Geoffroy “Geo”(1853-1924), Schoolchildren celebrating the 14th of July,
Oil on canvas, (46 x 61 cm)

However, even with industrialization, not many factories were equipped with machines.

The assembly line, in Chaplin's satyric movie "Modern Times"
The assembly line, in Chaplin’s satyrical movie “Modern Times”

They usually run with the help of assembly lines, and sometimes, the pieces are dropped in the morning into households where all the family work together as a team, assembling, gluing, painting, wrapping little toys that are then sent back to toy shops ; workers are payed 5 francs a day.

The toy industry is settled in the neighborhood of Le Marais in the very center of Paris. The factory manager is at the same time inventor, designer, and sometimes worker. Due to a bad organization, and willing to make the most beautiful toys with little money, and a difficulty to abandon craft for a total industrialization, the french toys start lacking in quality. The only things that saves the french toys is that they at least keep that amazing creativity even though they lost their beautiful craftsmanship by the beginning of the 20th century.  Still, french toys factories hold in 1855, 30 stands over 77 exhibitors at the Universal Exhibition.

Inspiration is as well taken from imagination that from everyday life. Every event is subject to a creation. Some news are published, and hop, the showman is already down the street selling that little toy that will fix a piece of history in every child’s memory. A tiny frog (frenchies here we come) perforating Panama’s Isthmus, Chicago’s game, or the Triple-Alliance quizz symbolized by a nutcracker.

Saussine’s famous toys are the testimony of these progress and changing times. Here are two exemples of Saussine’s games which theme had been adapted to racing games made by M.J & Cie – just like our French Horse Racing Game – to suit the exciting current events.

Capture d’écran 2013-04-27 à 12.40.58
Top of the game by Saussine “Le Concours d’Aviation” (The Aviation Contest)
Racing game by M.J & Cie (details)
Racing game by M.J & Cie (details)
Top of the game "Course d'Automobiles" (Automobiles Race) by french toy factory Saussine
Top of the game “Course d’Automobiles” (Automobiles Race) by french toy factory Saussine
A Racing Game by M.J & Cie (details)
A Racing Game by M.J & Cie (details)

Our game fits into this time with numerous details, such as a patriotic and victorious french flag anouncing the end of the battle/ride, the use of lead that was the component for bullets during WWI, and of course the major theme that inspired the piece ; race meetings…but this is for next time !

A Horse Riding Game reproduction with a french flag

Up next: 4è Partie. A French Horse Racing Game – A bit of History (Part 2: Lottery Games)

Previous: 2è Partie. A French Horse Racing Game – Condition report


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