World War II required rationing of many things considered critical to the war effort, including iron, steel, zinc, and rayon. The War Production Board prohibited the production of toys containing more than seven percent of their weight in those materials. Already manufactured toys overweight with that content could be sold until June 30, 1942.
Children were caught up in the war like their parents, but theirs was a different kind of war. They might play war games, nobody died for real, and no battles were lost. They hauled their wagons through their neighborhoods, collecting paper, metal, and rubber to be recycled into war material. Surrendering their metal toys to scrap metal drives was encouraged.
What were children to play with?
By 1940, war had begun in Europe and Asia, and America quietly began preparing for war, too. Toys came out with military themes. In 1940 and 1941, they were made of metal. Beginning in 1942, paper became dominant.
No German planes bombed the United States, and only one Japanese pilot flying a float plane off a submarine dropped incendiary bombs on an Oregon forest in late 1942. Also that year, Japan launched balloons carrying 30-pound bombs; only one exploded, killing six people in Oregon. Nevertheless, over 600,000 people became air warning spotters, including children. Toy makers capitalized, producing junior aircraft warning kits, plane identification charts and cards, and spotting games.
Board games tied in with current battles. Milton Bradley's popular target game, Bataan, was based on the defense of the Philippines, depicting on the cover the victorious Americans defeating the Japanese. Most games had the Allies winning, even when forward progress was entirely on the side of the Axis.
|The Dave Dawson games, produced by American Toy Works,|
was based on a popular fiction series for boys.
|Enemies were depicted as cartoon caricatures that would not be acceptable today.|
Punch-out and cut-out models in heavy paper were sold in kits. (Newspapers also offered the models, but the low quality newspaper stock didn't hold up well.) Parts were punched out, folded, slotted, and glued together. High-end kits sold for one dollar.
If assembling a model was too precise, picture puzzles covered the full spectrum of wartime themes. Scenes ranged from children playing as young commandos to sea battles to planes flying past by Statute of Liberty.
|Not all offerings reflected war. Wooden stencils came in animal shapes,|
flowers, birds, children at play, and religious motifs.