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Wooden blocks have been a part of childhood since the 17th century when English philosopher John Locke talked about them in a statement he gave in 1693. The statement spoke about how children would enjoy learning the alphabet more by using the alphabet nursery blocks common during the time period. In 1798, a book entitled “Practical Education” mentioned wooden blocks, calling them rational toys to educate children on spatial relationships and making different parts into a whole.
Blocks were first mass produced by S. L. Hill, of Brooklyn, New York. Hill attained a patent for ornamenting wood, which was a coloring of block surfaces prior to embossing them and adding a final coloration. Beginning in the 1850s, companies began making terracotta toy block sets that created structures as well as designs. Today, collectors seek out wooden block sets in their original wooden boxes, especially those with attached graphic labels.
Many collectors search for toy blocks from early paper-lith blocks with brilliant animals and stylized alphabets to boxed sets with stunning colors and ornate boxes. They are prominently collected by those who admire antique children’s objects. Those who collect blocks often incorporate them into country homes, children’s rooms, and Christmas holiday decor. They are also used to spell out family names as everyday decor.
The Bliss paper-litho company produced a Victorian-era line of toys including blocks. Collectors today hunt for these blocks as their colors, decorative surfaces, and fragile condition have made them scarce over time
The alphabet used on blocks and written language today originated in ancient Egypt in the 27th century B.C.
Children’s toy production was active in 15th-century Nuremberg, Germany, a major trade route stop. Craftsmen made a variety of items including toys made out of wood, foil paper, cardboard, leather, silver, and tin plate