A very rare late 19th century century American or German made Noah's Ark set with 32 (16 pairs) hand carved and hand painted animals together with Noah, his wife Naamah and the Ark - hand painted, inscribed and hinged along the ridge. Displayed upon a period wood platform base.
Inscribed along the back of the Ark, just beneath the eave: 'Homer Armstrong from his Uncle Eli'.
Dimensions: platform base measures 21 inches x 16 inches. Ark measures 15 inches long x 6 inches wide x 8.5 inches high. Animals measure 1 to 2 inches each.
According to Jim Snead of www.oldwoodtoys.com:
"Early Years - Noah's Arks were among the most popular wooden toys of the nineteenth century in Europe and America. Nearly every Victorian family of means had one. Due to their biblical theme, many children were not permitted to play with them except on Sundays.
Noah's Arks have been made at least since the 1700s and are being made today but their popularity peaked in the late 19th century. Most arks found from this period were made in Germany or made in America by German immigrants. The ark and animals shown at right form a German wooden, hand crafted set from the late 19th century.
Making Animals - Most of the animals in these arks are fanciful. Production in the 19th century was largely a cottage industry. One family may have made only horses while another only monkeys. The family making monkeys had probably never seen a monkey nor did it matter. Some families employed all members of their family making a variety of animals and arks. They were producing toys, not biology teaching tools so their imaginations were reflected in their animals. Green and blue mammals were common.
They were first shaped on a lathe. A piece of wood was turned into a donut shape with its surface the shape of the animal to be made. The donut is then sawed or hand cut radially to separate the individual animals. The animals thus have a slight wedge shape seen from above. The separated, roughly shaped animals were then hand shaped, and painted. Some families only did carving while others only painting.
The rarest animals are the small ones such as insects and snakes. Also uncommon are animal pairs which have different poses such as one looking and the other feeding.
Making Arks - Arks were made in small factories. Some were made from pieces of wood that looked like straw and these are sometimes called prisoner arks as though they were made by prisoners using bedding straw - some probably were. Early arks had removable roofs into which the animals were stored. These loose tops were easily lost so hinges were later added. In about the 1880s, lithography had been well developed and lithographed decoration began to be added to the arks to save some of the costs of hand painting. Later, arks were all lithographed. The ark shown here is all hand painted except for a small strip of lithographed paper near the roof line going all around the ark.
Arks styles generally break down into flat bottoms, rounded bottoms, and boat bottoms.
Flat Bottom Arks - A cute example of a flat bottom ark is shown here. This ark was likely made in the late 19th century, or early in the 20th century, probably in the Erzgebirge region of Germany . The original owners of this toy ark were among a very large group of German settlers who came to settle in South Australia in the mid 1800's to escape religious persecution."
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