Children's Toys: Country Trends--Germany

Figure 1.--Here is a wonderful image from Germany. This boy's parents have lined up his second birthday presents, not omly his toys, but alo his new suits. He did rather well. Note the great horse as well as a reailroad engine. Was the horse for riding? Its hard to make out the other toys. Also we see a sailor suit as well a what looks like a velvet suit. I'm not sure anout the color. The photo looked like the 1920s to us, but the rompers look more like the 1930s.

Perhaps no country is more associated with toys than Germany, at least before World War II. The photographic record prpvides a great deal of information about German toys. Especially helpful are all the Christmas tree photographs. Less common are birthday photographs Christmas is the most important German holiday and a portrait of the children with all theior loot under the Christmas tree was a family tradition. German companies were renowned for many different types of toys. We note cuddley toys like tddies and other stuffed animals. German dolls were also highly prized. And a wide range of mechanical toys were also greatly prized, perhaps none more than trains.

Boys' Toys



Mechanical Toys

We note many German mechanical toys. The Germans had a strong reputation for high-quality mechanical toys.


Model building is a great favorite for boys. We are not sure when building models became popular. The first German models we see are from the 1930s, but we believe they may have appeared earlier. We see many boys making model air planes. Many were models that were gliders. The Hitler Youth organized national competitions. After the War we see both balsaood kits and plasticv kits. I remember loving to make models in America. I and my friends were especially interested in World War II aitcraft. My brother was especially good at it. I think in Germany such World war II models were discouraged if not prohibited. There were kits for cas and other vehicles without a World War II association. We supect that after the Berlin Airlift (1948-49) that models of American transport C-47s may have appeared.

Pull Toys

Pull toys were also popular. We notice pull horses were especially popular. a German reader tells us that this was aoy toy. The images we have found do indeed show boys with pull horses.

Play Sets

We notice a variety of play set ups. We are not entirely sure about the appropriate generic term to call them. The most common is of course girl's doll houses. For many years there was nothing compsrsble for boys. Comparable set ups for boys began to appear in the 1920s. I remember that my brother bought me a Western frontier town set up. It was great for stsaging gun fihts. I doubt if these appeared in Germany. We have seen A car filling and service station was populr gor boys. A bit past my time space stations began to appear. A HBC reader tells us about a family food store thas has developed over four generations.

Puppets and Marionettets

Puppets were popular toys for both boys and girls. If a German child was lucky they would get a whole puppet theater. American readers will remember the puppet theater from "Sound of Music", actually those were marionettes. They were a little complicated to operate. But even very young children can play with hand puppets. They were called a Kasper Theater. Kasper is a traditional German pupet character going back hundreds of years. He comes from the same tradition as Punch and Judy in England. The origins are the Italian Commedia dell’arte. Kasper is the most important hnd puppet character. Other names include Kasperl or Kasperle--Little Kasper). Early characters were Pickelhering, and Hans Wurst (Jack Sausage), and Polcinell. These characters varied from performer to performer, but they were normally a silly, simple, and almost always rude. These characters were not just for children but performed for adult audiences. Slapstick commedy was the rule. The modern image of Kasper was influed by a string puppet, Kasper Larifari, in the play "Prinz Rosenrot und Prinzessin Lilienweiß oder Die bezauberte Lilie" (Prince Rose-Red and Princess Lily-White or The enchanted Lily) by Graf Pocci in Munich (1858). Pocci depicted Kasper as a rather dim-witted, but essentially good hearted and brave individual. He assisted Prince Rose-Red who to of course rescue the Princess from the bad wizard Negromanticus. Kasper and other characters even today in German apper in streets, parks, markets or fairs. The plays vary, but essentially Kasper has to face a range of adversaries (witch, devil, crofies, and many more). And of course he does it with slapstick humor.

Stuffed Animals

German was known for stuffed animals, especially teddy bears, but there were many other animals as well. We notice Hans in the late 1930s with a wonderful collection of stuffed animals. A good example is a little German boy's friends about 1930.


Toy trains were a particularly popular toy with German boys. We note all kinds of toy trains in the late-19th century and early-20 th century. These included trains which did not have any kind of drive as well as mechanical trains. Electric trains appeared in great numbers after World War I. And the Germans made some good ones in the 1920s and early-30s. The militarization of the German economy by the NAZIs in the 1930s probably affected the production of electrical trains. This would of course impaired thee popularity or at least children's access to them. Märklin started with electric table-mountaid railroads in 1935. Production was halted during World War II in 1943. Since the factory was not damaged during the war, Märklin restarted manufacturing toy trains and railroads soon after the War in 1946. They now also made exact copies of American freight trains like Union Pacific, N.Y.Central Railroad, and Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railways. By the time the German economy began to recover from the War, the popularity of trains had begun to wain. The principal manufacturer is Märklin. The Märklin company is since 140 years the world's oldest and largest toy train maker. Of course it is possible to build very elaborate latouts. Most German boys, however, had only a simple circular track with a single engine. Boys all over the world have been playing with Märklin trains.


We see German boys enjoying arange of vehickles. Younger boys played with scooters and tricycles. Scooters seem paticularly popular. These were middle-class items if you look t groups of boys, only a few will have sccoters and trikes. We do not note the many different types of pedal cars that were popular in America. Older boys enjoyed bicycles. They were not commonly available for boys unless they came from a comfortable middle-class family. German workers did not commonly have cars. Many traveled to work on bicycles. And often they did not wnt their children playing with them because they were expensive items. We see German boys taking group cycling trips. This seems particularly popular as a Hitler Youth activity. We see whole units taking bike trips. We do not have alot of information on this, but we believe that most of the boys involved did not own their own bikes. This all changed after World War II. As strange as uit may seem, most Germans benefitted economically by changes made after the War. As a result of the German Economic Miracle, Germans in Western Germany were more prosperousthan ever before. German boys, even working-class boys, by the 1950s did het scooters, tricycles, and bicycles. They became very common play items.

Girls' Toys


Every girl of course wanted a doll. Almpst all girls had dolls. It was the singl;e most prized items for girls. And of course toy pram to puh one around was very popular. Younger boys also played with them. Some German companies were particularly renowned for manufactring dolls. They exported dolls all over the world.

Doll House


Girls of course needed a pram to cart their dolls around. Boys had waggons (wagen) to cart all their treasures around. Girls wanted a little more sophisticated conveyance for their dollies. Hirls wanted a conveyance that looked like a baby pram, hust like the one their mothers used. The German term for a toy pram is Puppenwagen, meaning doll waggon. Yhey were done in a number of different styles and in different sizes.


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Created: 12:50 AM 3/21/2006
Last updated: 10:27 PM 2/14/2010