See the Holiday Express at the New-York Historical Society.
Remember how much you loved toy trains as a child? This exhibit will give you that magical feeling all over again.
The New-York Historical Society at 77th Street and Central Park West in Manhattan has presented this display every year since 2014. The Society bought 10,000 pieces – both trains and toys – from American collector Jerry Green. 300 different pieces are shown each year.
Green actually had 30,000 trains and toys in total. Sotheby’s would later auction many from the original collection.
Our wonderful docent Beth had vast knowledge and witty anecdotes. The Jerni Collection was named after Jerry and his wife, Nina. Today in his eighties, Jerry is still collecting. He says his collector’s gene won’t leave him alone.
The exhibit starts in the 1850s when 75% of toys – which weren’t inexpensive – came from Germany. “A child at that time would give his eye teeth for these toys,” Beth said. America did not yet have a toy industry.
These antique trains were part of a panoramic scene of life in those times. As the trains chugged along, we saw remarkably detailed miniatures of the town post office, with rooms to receive and sort letters and packages. Nearby was a café and a swimming pool that holds water.
Jerry branched out to collect miniature figurines such as a lady with a kangaroo and two soldiers in a foxhole. A larger antique car had wheels that were set at an angle so the car couldn’t go straight – which meant a child couldn’t ram the car into a wall!
Next was a tribute to Lionel trains. In the 1930s, Joshua Lionel Cohen changed his name to Cowen because of the anti-Jewish sentiment not only abroad, but in America as well. Cowen, an engineer, was also a marketing genius. He built an entire industry based on the family bonding over toy trains.
If you’re suffering at all from post-holiday blues, go see this spectacular exhibit of more than 300 toys and trains. It’s just the ticket you need to cheer you up.
The exhibit is open through February 26th and be sure to ask for the free audio guides. Call 212-873-3400 or go to nyhistory.org for more information.