Saturday, September 3, 2011

Antique Show Find: Lithographed Toy Blocks

I found the most beautiful set of toy blocks at an antique show this summer, and I've never seen another like them. Made of lithographed paper over wood, they are most likely from the McLaughlin Bros. company, and date circa 1890.

Each block is 4 inches tall, and each side is different, making the blocks many toys instead of one. One broad side has Fairy Land Railroad cars while the other has a Punch and Judy show, and the narrow edges have either numbers or soldiers. The alphabet runs along one side too, like a frame.

We'll start with a few of the Fairy Land R. R. cars, which depict characters from famous fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and classic children's stories. Turned horizontally, they can be lined up to make a train.

There's even a mail car, and a candy hauler:

The character sneaking a peek into the candy car is Mr. Punch, the famous maniacal puppet. By turning the blocks around and standing them vertically, they make a complete Punch and Judy show.

Oh no: Mr. Punch shakes the baby!

Then, he and Judy smack each other with sticks.

Punch is in serious trouble...

  ...but somehow he gets out of it.
(I'm missing a block here, 
so I'm not sure how he managed it.)

Finally, turning the blocks sideways gives you a little army all your own, complete with a drummer:

What a fantastically versatile toy: can't you just picture a little Victorian child playing with this by the hour on the floor of the nursery?


  1. The Fairyland railroad is great, but i really love Punch and Judy and the army.

  2. That is a wonderful find! I've enjoyed your blog so much. It's a pleasure to check on your blog to see your newest treasures.

  3. Glad you liked it! The Punch and Judy show was my favorite too.

  4. Oh, beautiful! I adore lithographed wooden toys.
    I bet Punch smacked the hangman with his stick.

  5. Fantastic wood block toys. And I'd say that the quality of the remaining paper is quite nice given the age.

  6. Absolutely gorgeous, and - coming from my blog! - love the side-end parade! Can't imagine how I've missed your blog, will link to it ASAP!


    1. Thanks! Glad you enjoyed them. The set is one of my favorite pieces, just a gorgeous old toy.

  7. I just found a complete set of these.. I think we might have the last 2 sets as nothing comes up on google

    1. Congrats: I've still never seen another one, although I keep looking! However, I did find them shown in a book, "LIthographed Paper Toys, Books, and Games 1880 - 1915" by Judith Anderson Drawe and Kathleen Bridge Greenstein. They are shown on page 101, with this caption: "Punch and Judy Alphabet blocks, c. 1890. Small blocks with train pictures on the reverse side. Most likely made by McLaughlin Bros. (Too rare to determine a value.)" Great find!