When people hear that I collect and am fascinated by old fragile bits of paper (officially called ‘ephemera,’ but most people don’t know it by that name), they invariably wonder why…
I’ll admit, ‘old paper’ may not be as stunning to display — at least in terms of traditional home decorating possibilities — as other collectibles, but for me, each and every piece (and if it’s a magazine or other publication, each and every article) is full of opportunities.
There’s the opportunity to discover something, someone, some company, etc., that I’ve never heard of before. Like this little brochure or promotional insert for the See ‘em walk Dog.
At first glance, this vintage pull-toy dog is not recognizable by name, nor is he known by sight. But he does bring to mind the Fisher Price classic, Little Snoopy, and so is somehow familiar and nostalgic anyway. (You don’t have to be silly with sentimentality to not feel a pull at your heart thinking of the children who had once played with — and likely better named — this vintage toy dog.)
Holding this piece of paper in my hands is like an invitation to explore; to research and learn more. So I do.
In this case, the invitation is clear; I have all the information I need to attend this research party:
- The Who: in this case, the maker, Noma Electric Corporation
- The Where: New York City
- The What: See ‘em Walk Dog, aka product number 756 (seriously, this company goes through the trouble of making this pull-toy dog far more adorable with walking dog legs instead of wheels etc., but they never name him?)
- The When: based on graphics, I’d say 1940′s, maybe 1950′s
Now I bet you’re asking, again, about the ‘why?’
But, like any explorer, I ask, “Why not?”
What can I learn from this toy?
Actually, quite a lot; here’s what Antique Toy Collectors has to say:
Noma is best know for their Christmas lights, receiving the patent in the1930′s. Due to material restrictions and utilizing their plant to produce war products, they were unable to make lights for a period of time during and immediately following WWII. Because of this and the need to keep their name in the public, Noma Electric manufactured a line of wood toys, including pull toys. Because of their wood construction, they were able to keep their name in the market and their toys became very popular.
After the war, NOMA returned to Christmas lights, but also continued to make wooden, plastic and metal toys. Some of their later toys were made with a wood composition material.
So, not only do I now know why I didn’t recognize the Noma name (the company dates are listed as 1927-1971), but I can guess as to why the adorable pup was lacking an affectionate name; strings of lights and their bulbs are probably best identified by their model numbers, and the company probably figured if ambient lighting can sell that way, why not toys?
In any case, it is an interesting bit of information to add to the wartime homefront stories. Plus it is much more fun to have a more realistic image of the life of this toy and the boys and girls who played with him. And this is why I love ephemera, compulsively collect it; for the opportunities to learn.
Even ephemera regarding known and recognized companies, products, persons, etc., offers the opportunity to learn something new, to better see and feel the past.
And, in the very best scenario, by sharing what I’ve learned I might just delight someone by reminding them of their childhood pal. Based on the little-to-no appearances on eBay and other online sales outlets, it may not only have been a long time since they’ve seen their old pal (or his commercially produced litter-mate), but it may be quite a long time before they can find one to purchase. Or afford; Bargain John’s has one listed, with the box, for sale at $375. (While that’s nearly four times the value listed at Antique Toy Collectors, it is the only Noma walking dog I found for sale.)
…Maybe this sold slip of paper is all they could afford to get their hands on. Though, as I found no other examples of ads for this toy, if I sold it, it wouldn’t be cheap. (Sometimes these old ads sell for more than the toys.) In any case, I sure do hope someone is thrilled to see their old puppy pal again — or that folks enjoy meeting him.
And that’s why I love ephemera.