Based on the toy horses, carriages and carts that appear in early boys' portraits, it seems that boys have always loved transportation-themed toys. If these two examples are any indication, the added element of heroism only increased the appeal.
By the late 1800s, mass production of affordable cast iron, and even cheaper tin, put colorful, durable and boy-proof toys such as fire engines and other horse-drawn vehicles within the reach of almost every household. Though simply designed, most were made so that the horses moved in an apparent gallop, hurrying to the scene of the imaginary fire. Horse-drawn fire engines remained in use well into the 1900s. This early 20th-century toy fire engine was donated to the DAR Museum by Byron U. Richards Jr., who played with it as a child.
The wood and printed tin toy ship represents the USS Oregon, which in 1898 undertook a historic voyage from San Francisco around South America after the sinking of the Maine in Havana Harbor. Its two-month journey highlighted the need for a rapid response to such emergencies and helped increase support for the idea of a canal through Panama. The Oregon arrived in Cuba in time to assist in the primary naval battle of the Spanish-American War, the Battle of Santiago de Cuba, in July 1898. The Spanish-American War lasted only a few months, but patriotic fervor ran high, and toys such as this reflected a nationwide awareness of America's fight with Spain. Gift of Jacqueline Ernest Merritt.