How Milton Bradley Introduced 19th Century Kids to Moving Pictures

The Huntington Library
The Huntington Library / The Huntington Library

In addition to founding the iconic board game company, Milton Bradley was also an experienced lithographer and influential proponent of early childhood education. These passions came together in his “Historiscope,” a beautifully illustrated toy meant to be a fun and educational tool for young children.

“The Historiscope: A Panorama and History of America” uses colorful lithograph prints to outline U.S. history, or at least history as it was understood when it was made around the year 1870. The toy consists of an eight-inch box containing a panoramic paper scroll. As the paper rolls along, history unfolds in 25 scenes, including Christopher Columbus landing in the Americas and the Earl of Cornwallis’ army surrendering in Yorktown. 

Huntington Library

Illustrated to look like a theater framing the scenes, complete with audience members watching from the balconies, the box originally came with tickets for “attendees” as well as an educational lecture to accompany the show. A Historiscope might look antiquated in today’s market of tablet-inspired gadgets for toddlers, but for many 19th century children it was their first introduction to moving, color pictures. Below you can watch a video of an authentic Historiscope from the Huntington Library’s art collection in San Marino, California.

[h/t: Huntington Blogs]