Toys in the Attic
George Lewis Akin
What is the purpose of toys and what can they teach us?
Through history, toys have reflected the spirit of the times. In the 1920’s, toys began to replicate the new, luxurious items and entertainment that the American people were beginning to desire. Pedal cars, mechanical wind-up toys, dolls, and games flooded the markets. Materials of choice for toys then included tin, pressed metal and cast iron.
Toys at that time were often gender-stereotyped. Girls were expected to play with dolls, dollhouses, and tea sets. Boys were not. A. C. Gilbert Co advertised a chemistry set and most of its other science- based toys exclusively to boys. Buddy L. toy trucks, cars and tractors were marketed simply as “toys for boys”.
There were no battery-operated toys nor toys that depended on electronics to work. Colorful graphics and good design captured the imagination of children. But toys did more than that. They kept children occupied and entertained. This was particularly the case of one little Lawrence County boy.
George Lewis Akin, son of Arthur and Mary Akin, was born near Billett, Illinois, November 30, 1913. According to his obituary, at the age of three, he became afflicted with a leakage of the heart and for six years he suffered with this affliction. Young George died April 12, 1923, at 9 years, 4 months and 12 days. Seven weeks before his death, his parents had taken him to Clearwater, Florida believing that the southern climate would improve his health. For a while, it seemed that he was better, but on their return journey to Illinois, George became ill and died on the train near Atlanta, Georgia.
According to the family, his mother placed all his toys, that had lovingly been purchased to keep him from rambunctious outside play with other children, in the attic. There these toys remained, some in their original boxes, until they were discovered and donated to the Historical Society.
If you have information about any of these toys, or perhaps would like to donate some toys of your own, please contact the Lawrence County Illinois Historical Society.