War Toys for Christmas: 1914-1917

Get Rid of Huns maze puzzle, Victoria & Albert Collection

Get Rid of Huns maze puzzle, Victoria & Albert Collection


Toy Makers Take Cue from War Now Raging, and Miniature Armies and Ordnance is in Style

Santa Claus will fill the stockings of Emporia boys and girls this year with guns, cannon, soldiers and warlike toys such as they never before have seen. It will be a military Christmas and the Emporia youngsters will fight the battles of the Argonne and Ypres like the real soldiers across the Atlantic, only the soldiers will be tin and the guns small and harmless.

The Emporia stores have their toys on display this week and in their big stock are many war implements. Miniature Krupp guns will slaughter tin soldiers in front of the fireplace Christmas Day, and the boys will imitate the Belgians and Germans with an assortment of air rifles, pop-guns, cannons and other forms of ordnance. There will be games of war where the boys will be generals, and like the kings in Europe, will recklessly feed their soldiers to the cannons of their opponents.

The children who have a preference for naval engagements will find many interesting toys in the Emporia stores. Superdreadnaughts, destroyers and other sea craft are waiting their launching in the family bathtub or rain barrel. The toy shelves are well stocked with boats this year and a heavy sale is expected.

The newest phase of war, the aviation conflicts, will find popularity in Emporia homes Christmas. Biplanes and monoplanes are for sale in a few stores. Kansas City stores are advertising Zeppelins which drop paper bombs but the Emporia merchants have not plunged so deeply in the toy business.

The supply of Christmas playthings is not short this year because of the war. The Emporia dealers bought their imported toys in the summer and received their goods before Germany—the Toyland of the world—was plunged into the war. Emporia [KS] Gazette 30 November 1914: p. 1

In 1914 the War was in the headlines of American newspapers, but, as is remarked, the primary concern at Christmas was a supply of toys and decorations, most of which were manufactured in Germany. By 1917, the date of this next article, German goods were anathema in the United States and U.S. factories were manufacturing their own toys.

war toys



Forts, Artillery and Airplanes Which Actually Fly Are Among the Military Playthings This Year.

The war has had a pronounced effect on the Christmas toys offered this year. Before the United States entered the conflict toys were made to discourage children from playing soldier. Playthings shown this year will cause the child to think in terms of war.

There will be little danger of rearing a generation of pacifists if many “young hopefuls” receive toy motor tanks Christmas. These are clever imitations of the effective British fighting machines. They consist of continuous metal shields constructed about toy motor cars, with even the wire wheels protected by “armor.” There are small openings for the drive to look out and frowning guns project from the front, sides and rear. The exterior is painted battle ship gray.

Then there are toy motor cars simulating destroyers. Graceful hulls are built about the vehicles, with equipment of rapid fire guns.


There is a wide assortment of toy cannon, some with pivots and cranks for aiming. This ordnance projects wooden darts mostly. There also are little forts with barbed wire entanglements, and fearsome field pieces.

One of the most interest war toys is an airplane which lifts itself from the ground. The frame is of thin wire and the planes are silk. A long rubber band operates the propeller. By adjusting the rudder the plane may be made to travel in a circle.


The words “Made in Germany,” heretofore seen on many toys, are absent. The trade marks on most of the articles indicate they were made in the United States. Much native inventive genius apparently has been devoted to toy designing in the last year. A number of new mechanical toys of American manufacture are to be had. Many of the cheaper toys were made in Japan. There is said to be a scarcity of toys this year. Buying is brisk.

Kansas City [MO] Star 2 December 1917: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is difficult to know how deeply ingrained in the youthful psyche is the impulse to shoot. Mrs Daffodil has heard of parents banning all weaponry from the nursery, only to have the child point a finger in the age-old “bang-bang” gesture or of using a triangle of thin bread-and-butter as a gun. She does not even want to think about the so-called “video-games,” which allow children to feel as if they are in a war-zone, killing the enemy.  This Father Christmas  had a kindly idea. This was, of course, before the United States entered the European conflict, but the War news was unavoidable.


Everything Else For the Children Being Made in Great Kensington Plants.

Philadelphia. Santa Claus sat in his workshop. ‘Twas nearing the middle of December—the children’s own month—and Santa was wondering what they’d like in their stockings.

“Haven’t you been reading the papers?” queried his first assistant. “War—nothing but war! Give ‘em soldiers this year. Tin soldiers with medals on their breasts, and muskets and cannon and block fortresses and real submarine ships that will sink and war aeros that will fly! Give the babies the war to play with!”

But Santa gazed with sad eyes. “Peace on earth,” he said softly. “Men slay each other, but the children of men mustn’t cherish thoughts of murder. We’ll give them their dolls and their toy animals to teach them love, and pray through them it may rule all men.” That’s what Santa Claus said. He gave orders that never a cannon nor a soldier was to be made in his workshop. And he sent out word to all his assistant workshops up and down the world that he didn’t care to drive his reindeer along housetops this year for the purpose of dropping war toys down chimneys.

At the big toy factories in Kensington [Philadelphia] the word that Santa Claus sent down from the North Pole was received joyfully. The factories never did make many war toys. This year they’ll make almost none. Broad Ax [Chicago, IL] 23 December 1916: p. 7

That bellicose person over at Haunted Ohio has posted on the grewsome war toys indocrinating the youth of Germany.

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

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.



2 thoughts on “War Toys for Christmas: 1914-1917

  1. Pingback: War Toys for Christmas: 1914-1917 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses | First Night History

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