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Toys & Play

“Columbia” Toy Boat


The Milton Bradley Company was one of several toy manufacturers that took advantage of novel printing techniques in the late 19th century to create colorful, highly detailed toys and games. Although black-and-white lithography had been in common use since around 1820, color lithography was not developed until the 1830s and the technology was not widely available until the early 1860s. At that point, it became possible to print a toy’s detailing on paper and affix the sheets to a base made of wood, metal, or both, as was the case in this example of a paddleboat dubbed the Columbia. This was a less time-consuming process than hand-painting, and the Eameses would have valued the use of new technologies to make high-quality toys accessible to more consumers. Despite this toy’s meticulous detailing—from green window shutters to a cross-hatched metal guardrail surrounding its decks—the piece was clearly intended for play rather than display, evident from the four wheels attached to its underside that would have allowed a child to easily push and pull the paddleboat around an imaginary river.

  • Medium:Wood, paper, metal, paint
  • Dimensions:12 1/2 x 24 x 5 1/2 in. (31.8 x 61 x 14 cm)
  • Item:T.2019.2.295.2