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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Thr 969

Toy theater collection,

Toy theater materials from the United States, England, Spain, Denmark, and Germany.


  • 1890-1997 and undated.

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English, Spanish, Danish, Portuguese, and French.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material. Collection is open for research.

Most of this collection is not housed at the Houghton Library but is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine what material is offsite and retrieval policies and times.


1 collection (5 linear feet (12 boxes))

Primarily reproductions of early 19th-century toy theater material, but some were newly designed and manufactured in the 20th-century. Collection contains toy theaters manufactured in Germany, Spain, England, the United States, and Denmark, including full cardboard and wooden theaters, prosceniums, stage floors, cloth curtains, scenery, characters, character slides, printed scripts, an audiocassette, and paper wrappers. Also includes cutouts, models, a set of electric lights for a toy theater, plastic and wooden toy figures, stencils, and paper dolls. Companies and individuals associated include: McLoughlin Bros., D'Oyly Carte, Mike Bartley, C. B. Nualart (El Teatro de los NiƱos), Pollock's Toy Theatres, Theatre Museum (Victoria and Albert Museum), Walt Disney Company, and many others. Tiles include: Sweeny Todd, The Mikado, Punch & Judy, The Merchant of Venice, Violet, Cinderella, Aladdin, Jack the Giant Killer, and Disney's Beauty and the Beast among others.

Biographical / Historical

Toy theaters were especially popular as English children's toys in the first half of the 19th-century. They were also called paper theaters and model theaters. By the late 19th-century popularity waned and publishing of these materials declined. Individual character portrait prints known as "penny plains" and "twopence coloureds" were collected and often used in toy theaters, as were engraved prints of multiple characters and scenery. Performing scripts were written especially for children to be used with these materials.


Organized into the following series:
  1. I. Toy theaters, cutouts, models, and paper dolls
  2. II. Miscellany for toy theaters

Physical Location

Harvard Depository, pf

Immediate Source of Acquisition

No accession number; Source and date unknown.

General note

The majority of this collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. See access restrictions below for additional information.

Processing Information

Processed by: Bonnie B. Salt
Link to catalog
Toy theater collection, circa 1890-1997: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, literary and performing arts archives, and more. The library's holdings of primary source material are managed by an expert staff and shared with scholars, students and the public in the reading room.

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