#TBT…Christmas in Toyland

This year for the holiday season at Liberty Hall Museum we have decided to incorporate the grande finale of our Toys Through Time exhibit with our Christmas decor and tours. We have picked five iconic board games and have decorated each of the rooms on the first floor to represent each one.  Of course the board games we picked, the Kean family don’t actually own but who doesn’t enjoy a more whimsical Christmas?? They have 600 other toys, but none of these! #ClassicKeans.

The Great Hall has been transformed into Candy Land! Candy Land was designed in 1948 by Eleanor Abbott while she was recovering from polio. The game was made for and tested by the children in the same wards in the hospital. The children suggested that she submit the game to Milton Bradley who bought it and first published it in 1949. We made small vignettes based off of the different areas of the board game for example, the Peppermint Forest and Molasses Mountain.

The Dining Room has become the great murder mystery of the game Clue or Cluedo as it is known in England. In 1944 Anthony E. Pratt applied for a patent of his invention of a murder/mystery themed game originally named “Murder!”.  Pratt presented it to the department store Waddingtons who immediately purchased it and provided its trademark name of Cludeo. It was originally published in 1949 and his originally design called for ten characters, one of whom was to be designated the “victim” by random drawing prior to the start of the game. We have set the Dining Room up as a dinner party with table settings for each Clue character with possible murder weapons throughout the room.

The Butler’s Pantry has been turned into a “words with friends” heaven with the board game Scrabble. In 1938, American architect Alfred Butts created the game as a variation on an earlier word game he invented called Lexiko. The new game which he called “Criss-Crosswords” added the 15 x 15 game board and the crossword style game play. According to legend, Scrabble’s big break game in 1952 when the president of Macy’s played the game on vacation and upon his return, was surprised to find that his store did not carry the game. He placed a large order and within a year “everyone had to have one!” We have decorated the tree with scrabble letter piece ornaments.


The next board game is not necessarily as iconic as the others but we still wanted to include it because it has a fun background story!  Our Parlor represents Around the World with Nellie Bly which is based off a newspaper game chronicling the journey of Jane Cochrane who wrote for the New York World newspaper under the pen name of Nellie Bly. In 1888 Bly suggested to her editor that she take a trip around the world attempting to turn the fictional Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne into fact for the first time. To keep interest in the story the World organized a “Nellie Bly guessing match” in which readers were asked to estimate Nellie’s arrival time down to the second. Bly traveled a total of 24,899 miles in 72 days. The Parlor has two steamer trunks and a carpet bag from the collection which would have been used by Bly for her travels.

And finally, everyone’s favorite, Monopoly!  The history of Monopoly is a little shady. Elizabeth Magie created the game in which she hoped to be able to explain the single tax theory. Magie took out a patent in 1904 for her game, The Landlord’s Game which was self published in 1906. And here is where it gets shady! Friends of Magie, Ester & Charles Darrow, went to her house and played The Landlord’s Game in which Darrow then asked for a written set of rules of the game which he found fascinating. Darrow would then create Monopoly based off of Magie’s game and the two never spoke again. The original version of the game was based off the streets in Atlantic City, NJ. The Morning Room is decorated with Monopoly money, mortgage cards and the iconic green houses & red hotels.

Christmas in Toyland tours are Monday – Saturday from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., leaving on the hour. They will run through December 30, 2016!


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