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“Grand Duke” Ives Toy Train

c. 1880

This toy train, which is of such a large scale that it was used without tracks and is known in the toy business as a “floor model,” was a gift to Charles from filmmaker Billy Wilder. It was produced by Ives, Blakeslee & Co., Manufacturers, the largest producer of toy trains in the early 20th century. Toy trains are different from model trains; while models aim to accurately replicate the details of actual locomotives and cars at scale, toy trains are generally looser in their interpretation. The Eameses favored toys over models, and this particular toy train was used by the Eameses on multiple occasions. They used it as a prop in a Herman Miller showroom, as a Christmas decoration in their own home, on their House of Cards construction kit, and as one of the many toy trains that appeared in their 1957 film Toccata for Toy Trains. This film delighted in the wonder of toy trains and celebrated the history of the railroad at a moment when air travel was quickly replacing train travel as the primary mode of transit for both freight and commercial purposes. Charles especially had reason to feel connected to the bygone days of trains—his father had worked as a detective for Pinkerton, the private detective agency that contracted with the US government to protect the railroads in the late 19th century.

  • Medium:Metal, paint
  • Dimensions:10 1/2 x 7 1/2 x 19 in. (26.7 x 19.1 x 48.3 cm)
  • Item:T.2019.2.1