Moveable Feasts

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In New York on Fifth Avenue and 16th Street a heavy metal sign is bolted into the side of an imposing prewar building, a combination of gothic and slab serif type, it reads “B. Schackman & Co, Favors, Novelties.” It is a ghost of a bygone era. The original emporium, founded in 1898, (which is now just a wholesale website) was over a decade ago replaced by an Anthropology store. But in its heyday it was a wellspring of amazing toys and trinkets, as well as replicas of Victorian playthings. The market for such replicas is large.

The good folks at Optical Toys (above and below), devoted to making pre- and proto-cinematic toys and paper products, are producing this in abundance. Included in the company’s stock is a phenakistascope disc (from 1833 it is one of the earliest movies known), flipbooks, thaumatropes and zoetropes. Eadweard Muybridge’s flipbooks are among the favorites, as is The Ole Million Face toy (a.k.a. Changeable Charlie). Owner Andy Voda, says “I take particular satisfaction in knowing that the unique, amazing, beautiful or just plain weird toys that I have chosen to publish have connected with people all over the world.” His most recent is Leon – An Emotional Flipbook, “the first time in human history,” he says, “200 images of human emotions are available to view in one box.” And they can be sorted into any order to show longing, torment and suffering. Though I prefer affection and love.

The website is a kinetic experience in keeping with the gestalt of these low-tech, high energy objects. Go here and flip through the flipboooks and the antique book reproductions.

(Read about me and Davy Jones on tonight’s Nightly Daily Heller at 7pm EST.)