Friday, December 8, 2017

A Model Horse for Christmas, Part Two

A few weeks ago I wrote about the importance of horses and horse-shaped toys and decorative objects as holiday gifts.  Right after that, I went to an estate sale and found some printed evidence that further underscores the importance of the horse in Mid-Century American life.

The 1950s and 1960s were an era where horse-loving children were encouraged and enabled at Christmastime.  The 1963 Spiegel Christmas Book catalog gives us many examples of model horses and other horse-related objects that could end up under the Christmas tree (with no money down and two years to pay, no less).

Let's step back in time and look at some of the many, many model horses and related items that were available in that day.

The cover of the 1963 Spiegel Christmas catalog
sets the stage for the time gone by.

TV show tie-ins for toys were abundant. 
One could ask Santa for a talking Mister Ed hand puppet.
Mr. Ed was not cheap, though; $3.88 in 1963 dollars is about $31.04 today.

If you were small enough,
you could sit on a plush horse while watching television.

Interactive toys had entirely different shapes in 1963. Here's a farm set that allows a child to learn that you can't put a square horse into a round pig's stall in the barn.

I see Paint By Number pictures of horses and other animals often at estate sales.  Again, they were not inexpensive.

Horses were integral parts of any toy Farm Set.

Toys that featured horses were for boys as well as girls in 1963.  I wonder if Buddy-L ever got a letter from Breyer's attorneys over the design
of these smaller knockoffs of the Family Arab stallion, mare, and foal?
I also wonder how many model horse-loving big sisters appropriated the horses
out of their little brother's toy trailer?

A horse race track that doubles as a car race track.

Now we're talking about one of the major influences in many a child's life: the bouncy horse. They came in a wide variety of styles, sizes, and finishes.

More horse-shaped ridable objects. 
Talking Blaze by Mattel was a serious "holy grail" for a lot of little kids.  Here's an original TV ad for Blaze.

More opportunities to watch TV on imaginary horseback,
coupled with all the elements you need for your own Carpet Herd of Hartland Western characters and their trusty steeds (each six inches tall when seated in saddle).

A horse-design wallet.  Why wasn't there one for girls, too?

For grownups or kids, a ceramic horse-themed "valet"
to hold a watch, cufflinks, etc. , by Swank. 

(I think Swank missed the boat with this duck-shaped valet, though. )

Breyer collectors knew that a model horse is not only decorative but functional.  This Spiegel page offered the Breyer Family Arabians in "White China finish" and (not pictured) "Wood Grain finish."  The set of two "King" Fighting Stallions came in "White China" (not pictured)
and "Wood Grain" and could function as bookends.  And the Western Pony is shown here as the "Pony Pen Set." 

The Western Pony appears here in palomino.  The caption on the next page says:  "PALOMINO GROOMER...stalwart stallion packs a young cowpokes [sic] complete grooming needs.  Snap-off saddle bag holds tooth brush, comb, nail file and clipper.  Plastic.  Abt. 8x7 1/2-in.high (1 lb. 4 oz.)  54 J 2749....Set $2.57." You can read more about the Breyer Grooming Kits here:


  1. Lovely article, thanks so much! I played with a few of these (I was 3 that year).
    I can't help noticing "Buddy L's" Family Arab Mare knockoff looks a lot like the Marx Thunderbolt/Blaze... until now I had never made the connection...

    1. Thanks! Yes, the Thunderbolt does look sort of like the son of that Buddy-L mare!