A remarkable exhibition coming to the National Maritime Museum in March presents 100 years of beautifully-made toy boats… a century of childhood for everyone to enjoy.
Espana, aircraft carrier: Clockwork, Paya Spain about 1930
Bateaux Jouets – toy boats from Paris 1850-1950, from France’s Musée national de la Marine, comprises some 200 colourful and imaginative craft.
They range in style from simple paper boats to stunning mechanical marvels with the ability to propel themselves across a carpet, a pond or even an open bay.
Nowik-gunboat This is a very famous toy boat. An ancillary system linked to the clockwork mechanism enabled the boat, cruising across the pond, to fire its already primed guns at the same time as it went about to return to its starting point.
And they are the products of their time, reflecting western Europe’s rapid industrialisation over the century 1850-1950 and the evolution of pleasure boats, passenger liners and fighting ships in that period. “Bateaux Jouets is an exhibition of extraordinary quality,” Australian National Maritime Museum Director Mary-Louise Williams said today. “It’s all about toys… but it’s also all about their industrial context in the 19th century. And they are charming! ”
Bateaux Jouets demonstrates that toy boats were among the most popular playthings in the hundred years from the mid-18th century. Interest grew as city development brought new urban parks with ponds suitable for toy boating and families increasingly took to the seaside for holidays.
The exhibition looks at toy boats as playthings at home… lead flotillas, figurines, boats to build, boats to play with on the floor, board games, historical dioramas and lots more.
It traces the evolution of factory-made toy boats from those made of tinplate by small-time craftsmen in the mid-19th century through the far more sophisticated metal vessels produced in well-known factories in France and Germany.
Léviathan passenger liner Bing produced this little passenger liner in seven different sizes. The longest measured a metre, the smallest 20 cm. This 51 cm example was from the middle of the range
And it considers the various means of propulsion – from the simple twisted rubber band to clockwork springs, fired-up burners producing steam and battery-stored electricity.
But most of all, Bateaux Jouets provides the evidence that toy boats were, and still are dream objects for adventure on the high seas.
Toy boats from Paris 1850-1950
20 March – 17 August 2008
Australian National Maritime Museum
In Australia, sponsored by Specific Freight and Cathay Pacific Cargo, Bateaux Jouets – toy boats from Paris 1850-1950 will appear exclusively at the National Maritime Museum. The museum is open daily, 9.30 am to 5 pm. Information, (02) 9298 3777 or www.anmm.gov.au.