Pioneer Packard Toy Pedal Car
A traditional doll made by Zulu mothers for their children.
(Photo © iStock.com/Tarx.)
A Humpty Dumpty circus band toy from around 1910. (See it in the Archive.)
By the early 1900s, cars powered by gasoline had begun to sell widely throughout the United States. Oldsmobile launched mass production of automobiles in 1901; Henry Ford improved the assembly line and was able to churn out his legendary Model T in just 93 minutes. But while Ford was selling cars for $440, the Packard Motor Company focused on luxury cars whose prices began at $2,600. Many dignitaries and heads of state took great pride in owning a Packard.
Soon after cars began to catch on in the U.S., toy manufacturers started producing miniature versions for children to ride in and play with. Pioneer was a leading producer of children's riding toys, including the Packard car presented here. It dates from 1914 and features pedals that allowed children to propel the car forward.
A Closer Look
- As a class, brainstorm about what an examination of children's toys can reveal about a culture and about that culture's perception of children and their role in society.
- What was a Packard pedal car? According to the appraiserAn expert who assesses the value, quality, and authenticity of works of art or other objects., what other companies made pedal cars as time went on? What factors do you think accounted for price differences among newly manufactured pedal cars in 1914?
- What is the value of this car? What does the appraiser say about the part that collectors' tastes and interests play in determining an object's value? How does he compare this car with one from the 1920s, an American National model with fenders?
- This Packard car was manufactured in 1914, three years before the U.S. entered World War I. In what ways do you think the U.S. decision to enter World War I affected the toy industry?
- How would you define a toy? Can a household item be a toy? What is the difference between playing with a toy and playing a game?
Activities and Investigations
- Find out more about the development of the Packard. When and where were the first and last Packard automobiles manufactured? Design and illustrate a time line that includes entries for major developments in the history of the automobile. Where does the Packard stand on this time line? What makes Packards popular among collectors today?
- How do children play in other cultures? How have children played in other time periods? Select a culture and time period to investigate and share your findings with classmates.
- Working in a small group, come up with the concept and design for a riding toy that would be popular with children in the year 2108. Make a sketch of your creation, along with a description of its features.
For Further Exploration
Toys, Dolls, Dollhouses, and Automata at the Shelburne Museum
Online exhibit featuring European and American children's collectiblesCollectibles come in three forms: Artistic and historic objects that are less than 100 years old; popular items that are mass-produced but that may not have any individual artistic merit; and objects that gain value because of their associations. from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.
America's Packard Museum
Historical background and photos documenting the Packard Motor Car Company, its products, and its philosophies.
People's Century: 1900-1999
Through the voices of the people who were there, the film People's Century explored many of the historic events of the 20th century, including the development and spread of automobiles. See related teaching and other resources on the site.
Where Do the Children Play?
This national initiative — which accompanies a public television documentary — is designed to help communities expand universal access to outdoor play and recreation.
by Dennis Alder (Motorbooks International, 2004)
History of the Packard automobile and company.
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