December 20, 2006

Stories Told By Toys

The Kelsalls were an acquisitive couple, according to East Hampton historian Hugh King. The late Trevor Kelsall, King's predecessor as official historian, collected toys, and his widow Jo collected buttons. Through December 30, Home Sweet Home Museum in East Hampton will display portions of the local couple's collections.

"He liked toys that moved," King said during a tour on Saturday. Mechanized, made mostly of tin and painstakingly detailed, the toys on view include a large roller coaster, as well as several miniatures that reflect modern amusement park rides. The playthings wind up, some with keys. The "newest" toy on display is a kitschy battery-operated Mighty Mike, a bear that lifts dumbbells, circa 1950.

Years ago, King noted, there was a train that ran from Bridgehampton to Sag Harbor. It stopped functioning in 1939. Before it ceased, in its final years, just one car ran. It was dubbed the "Toonerville Trolley." Kelsall's collection includes a miniature train car boasting the same name. "We can't be sure if they copied the toy [when naming the local trolley]. It's probably too good of a story to be true," King mused.

Jo Kelsall's collection covers a wider span of time. One hears "buttons," and images of a box of cast-off fasteners develop. But these are much different, collectors' items, to be sure. Sterling silver versions date back to the 16th century. Versions from the 18th century are made in mixed material, and the 19th century is represented by a collection entirely made in France: kaleidoscope buttons and miniature portraits. One grouping in the collection is comprised of nothing but buttons featuring pictures of poodles. Art Deco milk glass, lacy glass and black painted glass buttons are also on display.

The show continues through the end of the month, every day except Christmas, from noon to 6 p.m.

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