Celebrating Childhood at the National Farm Toy Museum

Farm toy museum appeals to both collectors and tourists with memories of good times on the farm.

| October 2007

It may not be the fountain of youth, but the National Farm Toy Museum at Dyersville, Iowa, does have a way of making people feel like kids all over again. "Our visitors really enjoy taking a step back into the past," says Amanda Schwartz, "seeing the tractors they used as a kid growing up on a farm, or the ones that grandpa had." Amanda is the executive assistant for Dyersville Industrial Development, and events and membership coordinator for the toy museum.

Kids of all ages get excited about the museum, Amanda says. "Today I heard a little kid exclaim, 'Look at all the toys!'" she says. "That's what I like about my job: the reaction you get from people." She also enjoys showing off the museum's vast collection. Her favorite toy in the museum resembles a 1950s Farmall and was manufactured in 1969 by Carter Tru-Scale Products. Called the "Shut Up Toy," it cost less than a dollar in grocery stores where it was sold to keep children quiet while mom shopped. "That's always a fun story to tell kids," Amanda says.

The museum's first floor includes a theater where a 10-minute film ("Toys to Treasures") is shown, and a full-size farmhouse porch and seven dioramas depict farmstead changes over the past century. A variety of toys and a die-cast machine once used at the Ertl Co. are also displayed on the first floor.

On the second floor are exhibits illustrating the evolution of corn and grain harvesting (complete with custom-made machine replicas), and floor-to-ceiling displays of farm toys, pedal tractors, toy construction equipment, fire engines, trucks and banks.

More variety than Heinz has pickles

Two types of audiences visit the toy museum's 14,000-square foot space. "There's the collector who knows the toys, the manufacturer and all the details," Amanda says. "Then there's the tourist who just wants to know what the toy is and why it's special. We try to please both."

Variety is the key to keeping everybody happy. At the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) section, tractors are showcased alphabetically from Allis-Chalmers through White. "Putting the entire inventory in order alphabetically and chronologically was a labor of love," Amanda admits. "It took us a while to get that together, but it's a nice display."