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Feature: The 1916 Toy Show
'Over the housetops and over the trees, on like a wind through the heavens.' Santa Claus delivers presents on Christmas eve. Photo: St Nicholas Serial via the Internet Archive

Feature: The 1916 Toy Show

Despite the ongoing war, the lives of children throughout December were still centred around excitement for what Santa Claus would bring them on Christmas morning.

Like television adverts today, children were bombarded with toy and present ideas in print form in the run up to Christmas. Here are a selection of advertisments from the American children's magazine St Nicholas Serial throughout 1915 and 1916. Since America was not yet at war, the presents were more extravagant than they were in Ireland, Britain and other countries involved in the First World War. 

For Boys 

Construction toys were particularly popular for boys at this time. Meccano, still popular today, had been on the market since 1901. 

For girls


Dolls and their accessories were popular for girls, the doll blanket promises to bring 'unbounded joy' to a little girl. For a slightly more elaborate present the Western Electric Company in the United States produced a junior oven, just the thing for girls to learn to cook on! The stove came with a teakettle, a skillet and a baking pan and it just plugged in to an electric light socket. 

Other gift ideas

As they would be in Christmas 2016, books, chocolate and bikes were popular for children's presents 100 years ago. Many of the book titles suggested in the first advert relate to the war. 

Cameras made by ANSCO and Kodak were another option, they were advertised as being handy for children playing indoors and outdoors as they could be easily put in your pocket. 

Christmas in Ireland

Meanwhile, in Ireland, Irish Life kept to more practical presents for children in 1916 to meet the hardships of the war and fallout from the Easter Rising. 

Robert & Co on Grafton Street had party dresses for girls and suits for boys, they described dainty frocks as a very useful gift. 

Mackintosh's Toffee de Luxe is recommended for all the family as a Christmas present, in their advertisement they also recommend sending some to the 'boys in Khaki and the boys in blue.'


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.