A Christmas Toy Party: 1898

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Ever Hear of the Like?

Delightfully Novel Entertainment for the Children in the Yuletide Season.

Thirty boys and girls in less than half as many homes were in a flutter of excitement. Little girls asked to go see other little girls—“just for a few minutes”—and boys gathered in knots and with curious gestures, seemingly explanatory, discussed an apparently important subject.

Sometimes the boys and girls would meet, and one would hear, “what are you going to be?” or “I’m going as an elephant.t”

Then some young wiseacre would say, “Really, I do not think we ought to tell each other,” and another wiseacre would respond, “Why not? We are going to wear our own faces, and, as everybody will know everybody else, I think it is much better to tell each other, ‘cause then there will not be so many of one kind.” Now this was a very sage and philosophical conclusion, as it afterward proved, because at the toy party that occasioned all this animation there were scarcely two toys alike to be seen.

Each as a Favorite Toy. The invitations to the party had been sent by a young lady—a pet friend of every boy and girl asked—and she had requested each small guest to appear in the character of his or her favorite toy. She also suggested that as girls might not care for animals or manly toys, each of them come dressed like her own dearest doll, and that the boys appear as bears, dogs, wolves, elephants, monkeys, goats, horses, lambs, donkeys, &cc., or as firemen, policemen, soldiers or sailors, like those seen on toy engines, boats, &c., or else that mechanical figures like dancing Sambos, organ grinders, gymnasts, acrobats, &c., supply ideas for some of the costumes. She said she preferred to have them mostly animals, but would leave the matter to them and their mothers.

One thing, however, she must insist upon—every boy and girl must be in a costume representing a toy or a doll, and any boy or girl coming in any other costume would be sent home. Of course, this seemed rather arbitrary, but the young hostess was simply endeavoring to make the party a perfect success, and to do this there must be no strangers among the toys. Mammas very soon saw the point, and right heartily entered into the sport of attiring their young hopefuls for this particular occasion.

Naturally there was some argument as to which doll a little daughter or two should represent, for with the strange perversity of childhood in such matters several of the best beloved dolls were minus a limb or so, had lost an eye or the tip of a nose, or proved to be rather ragged and soiled specimens of homemade manufacture. This matter was finally satisfactorily adjusted.

In the meantime other mothers were having troubles of their own with the young sons of their families, who wouldn’t stand still to be fitted to costumes made of fuzzy stuffs like canton flannel, astrakhan, &c., and who insisted on having their say as to the cut of an ear or the hang of a tail. Then openings had to be devised for faces so that the heads of the animals would not smother the wearers nor obstruct their vision.

All this was successfully accomplished at last, and on December 26, about seven o’clock, the guests were to come early—lovely dolls and great big toys were seen walking out of houses that were not toy shops and into a large brown stone one uptown that had always been known as a private residence.

The hostess beamed, cordially upon each, and when they were all gathered in the large parlor you never saw a prettier, more novel sight.

toy costume party

Poodle and Donkey.

A French poodle—as a boy, he once had a black astrakhan coat that looked just like his present fur—minced along, waving his paws and wagging a tasseled tail and looking hungry. Later on his little tricks secured him many a bonbon and tidbit. A donkey, who wore in addition to his canton flannel costume a high, white swell collar, had bad luck in securing smiles from the dolls; a big policemen helped them, beautifully, to cross the room in escape, and then returned to the pretty nurse maid doll he had found sitting in a corner. It was all quite natural, you know.

About nine o’clock the tapping of a drum was hear and the hostess said she would now present her guests to Santa Claus, who had dropped in quite unexpectedly and been asked to stay and assist her with the rest of the entertainment—what that meant they did not know. Well, she drew back the doors and there was a fine Christmas tree. The children—no, the toys—were much surprised and wondered if little boys and girls were going to be given them as presents. As for Santa Claus, he threw up his hands in great astonishment and looked half frightened at the sight before him.

When all of the gifts were distributed Santa Claus announced that if any “animal” present was dissatisfied with a doll as a gift, he was privileged to exchanged it with any “doll” who was not pleased with her present. It was surprising how quickly some of those gifts changed hands.

After a few pretty games and a dance or two refreshments were served in the dining room. They consisted of sandwiches and cakes shaped like dolls and animals; ice cream that was moulded to represent fruit, vegetables, frogs, comic figures and flowers, and lemon and orangeade, both pink and yellow.

New York Herald 11 December 1898: p. 3

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Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A charming conceit, although the illustration of the cat costume explains why Santa Claus appeared half frightened and the idea of toys being given little girls and boys for presents is a surreal one.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,”where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.


1 thought on “A Christmas Toy Party: 1898

  1. Pingback: The Christmas Tree Dance: 1921 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

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