Clockwork Toy Figures
These figures are the remaining bits and pieces of a popular type of 19th century American toy known as clockworks.
The couple probably "danced" atop a missing toy drum or a wooden base with a wind-up clock mechanism. Dressed in handmade clothing, they have wooden bodies and molded papier-mache heads. Their wooden legs and feet are connected with metal links so they can move freely.
Clockwork toys rose in popularity in the middle of the 19th century. The appeal was in their action movements. Clockwork toys incorporated an actual clock mechanism in the base (missing from these figures) to make very elaborate or lifelike actions. Subjects ranged from rowing boats to piano players to trains. There also were dancers, such as the pair shown here. Before it became known for trains, Ives, Blakeslee & Company was America's leading manufacturer of clockwork toys and possibly the maker of these two figures.
Donated by a member of the Beeson family, the pair was part of the defunct Beeson Museum collection located in Dodge City, Kansas. Mr. and Mrs. Merritt Beeson were private collectors of Dodge City history for 10 years before starting a museum out of their home about 1932. Their collection documented the early days of Dodge City through a wide assortment of objects, papers, and photographs. Several pieces of the original collection, including these clockwork toy figures, are being preserved in the collections of the Kansas Museum of History.
Entry: Clockwork Toy Figures
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: January 2005
Date Modified: December 2014
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.