History of the Nuremberg Toy Trade and Industry
By Helmut Schwarz
Published Online (2003)
Introduction: Nuremberg has more than 600 years of tradition as a city of toys. Production of and trade in toys are an integral part of the city’s general industrial history, but they are also an important part of Europe’s cultural history of toys because of their economic and cultural influence. This history spans from the beginnings of recorded doll production in Nuremberg towards the end of the 14th century, to the ever more sophisticated craft of toy production in the pre-industrial age, and right up to the industrial mass production of metal toys in 19th and 20th century Nuremberg.
The first evidence of toy production in Nuremberg is to be found in the production of dolls made of white, unfired clay. A large number of finger-length dolls, whose modelled clothing points to the fashion typical of the late 14th century, was found during construction work in Nuremberg in the mid 19th century. The dolls represent men and women, horsemen, monks and babes in arms. Some may also have served as souvenirs for pilgrims and merchants who passed through the city. Others have circular indentations in their breast or back which may have served to hold coins. It is therefore assumed that these might have been presents to godchildren by godfathers and godmothers. They were meant for children, then; but it is doubtful in view of their fragile nature whether they would have been of much value as toys to those who received them as presents. Since it is not just a matter of an isolated find, it can be assumed that these clay dolls were to a certain extent already items of trade and that some of them at least were produced in the city itself. Incidentally, this find is the second-oldest proof of the commercial production of dolls in Europe. Only the dolls discovered in Strasbourg dated to the 13th century are older.