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Turns of the Centuries Exhibit > Family Life 1880-1920 > Child Life
This theme in other eras: 1680-1720 | 1780-1820 | 1880-1920

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.

Child Life : Play Imitates Life


At the turn of the twentieth century, boys and girls usually played separately. Dolls continued to be a very popular toy for girls, as did miniature tea sets and other objects that allowed young girls to act out the domestic routines of adult women. Jumping rope was originally a boy's game, but it became more and more a girl's activity in this period, in part perhaps because girls' clothing styles had changed. Rolling hoops remained extremely popular among boys and some girls. The culture of the period generally assumed that boys engaged in more aggressive and physical games. Toys for boys reflected this belief. Instead of fragile tea sets and china dolls, boys received sturdy wheelbarrows, pony whips and hoops.

Like girls, boys acted out adult gender-specific activities. Playing soldier was a popular game. Although the Civil War had ended over thirty years before, it loomed large in the imagination of these boys photographed acting out their romanticized vision of Union artillerymen in battle. These boys could learn about the war through written descriptions (including books intended to inspire young boys with tales of patriotic valor) and from photographs. Old wagon wheels, a log and a stick substituted for a gun carriage, cannon and swab. The small boy standing on top of the "cannon" is Thomas Ashley of Deerfield. He was unconsciously rehearsing for his own role as a soldier in World War I, when he would be killed at Chateau-Thierry, France, in 1918 at the age of 27.


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"Firing the Cannon"

photographer   Frances and Mary Allen
date   1900-1905
location   Deerfield, Massachusetts
height   6.5"
width   8.0"
process/materials   printing out paper print (P.O.P)
item type   Photograph/Photograph
accession #   #1996.14.1108

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See Also...

Thomas Williams Ashley (1894-1918)

"The Snow Storm"

Doll "Joel Ellis"

Doll "Diana"


Bowling pins

Mary, Mabel and Frank Colcord

"Firing the Cannon"

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