Late 19th Century Flat Bottom Toy Noah’s Ark with 20 Animals. German


Germany, Circa 1890's c.

7 1/2"
17 3/4"
Inquire Share print Categories: ,

Offered for sale is a very traditional folk art item; a hand crafted Noah’s Ark toy with 20 hand painted and hand carved wooden animals. The flat bottom ark indicates that it was probably made in the Erzgebirge region of Germany in the 1890’s, which was known for that particular design, and cottage industry manufacture. Typically there were no toy companies that made these items, which is why markings are not prevalent. A cottage industry type production would be more typical, whereby one family in a village carved the animals, another painted them, another made the ark, and still another painted the ark. Or it could be more simple than that whereby an entire family (if it was big enough) participated in the entire manufacture.

Toy Noah’s Arks for children to play with were very popular in the late 19th century, and being of a biblical theme, they were a favorite toy to play with on Sundays. Noah’s Ark toys were sought after in America in the late 19th century. Consequently, many examples have turned up; especially in Pennsylvania where there are many towns populated by families of German descent.

This particular ark is all original, with a 1/2″ lithographed floral molding to the top border. The balance of the finish is hand painted in colors of green, beige, black, orange, and red. The complete underside is hand painted in red. A cork like applied brown finish to the roof is complemented by simulated cloth hinges. Animals may be stored in the body and accessed by the hinged top and closed and secured with a hasp and eye hook.

The 20 figures consist of (6) pairs of animals; giraffes, elephants, camels, lions, dogs, and goats. The eight single figures are comprised of Noah, goose, bird, horse, lamb, cow, pig, and a sheep

Many, but not all, of the animals are marked with “Made in Germany” or simply “Germany” (see image). This would date the animals after 1887 as the Merchandise Marks Act of 1887 in Great Britain mandated that all items of foreign manufacture be marked as such. Usually, countries exporting items marked everything, regardless of what country they were destined.

The condition is very good and consistent with age and use. There is a horizontal crack on one side of the ark (see image). This would be indicative of age, and consistent with shrinkage typically occurring because of the inexpensive woods that would have been used. The hand painted design to the ark is all original.

Dimensions: 17 3/4″ long x 7 1/2″ high x 5″ wide.