Of the many interesting items I observed in the garden this past week (dozens of newly hatched praying mantids, the first ripening strawberries of the season, my apparent conquering of three hills of vicious ants I’ve been battling for more than a year, loofa sponge seedlings poking up through the ground in the morning glory patch), none are as intriguing as this curious little find…
After brushing off enough dirt to realize that the tiny horseman was made from lead (and not stone), the first thing that popped into my brain was the late 1960s tune “One Tin Soldier.” Then I flipped the toy over to count the rider’s legs in order to determine if he was the resurrected nameless character from Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” (1838).
I haven’t decided if this guy is really a soldier, some sort of knight or royalty, or just a dandy out for a Sunday ride. Perhaps it represents Paul Revere? Only the most brilliant scholars will scoff at my notion that the figurine is actually of the famously unknown Hessian trooper who would later become legendary by haunting Sleepy Hollow, rushing off to enlist in the Revolutionary War.
What I do know is that the figurine is hollow and was mass produced. It measures 35 mm from nose to tail by 27 mm hoof to head, and is approximately 8 mm thick. The bottom portion of the horse’s right rear leg is missing- possibly having broken off when separated from the base (assuming, of course, that it once had a base). No evidence of paint remains on the item.
A few Google searches revealed that there are TONS of websites dedicated to toy soldiering, lead miniatures, plastic army men, and scale modeling of famous and imaginary battle scenes. Although one or more of these sites potentially might lead to information about my historic artifact, truth be told, the shear number of them is practically overwhelming (at least during baseball season). Thus, I have emailed photos to a few historians I know, and forwarded my request to other archaeologists who hopefully will pass along the inquiry to historical specialists they work with. Perhaps this will result in a better starting point to determine the origin of this object.
Given that the toy lacks an obvious maker’s mark, I may never figure out who manufactured it, or when. Still, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that it is one countless toys produced by Louis Marx and Company, an American company that made millions of dollars selling toys, including inexpensive ones through dime stores (such as Woolworth’s for example) since opening for business in 1919.
Your comments are encouraged. As improbable as it seems, it would be very interesting to be able to associate this item with one of the previous homeowners.
On a side note, while researching this lead figurine I tripped over a line of long-unremembered toys from my youth that caused me to laugh like Syd Barrett. Do any of you still have one or more plastic Nutty Mads figurines in your toy box?