1944.367 | Robert and William Thomson

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Robert and William Thomson
About 1820, 19th century
Oil on canvas
118 x 98 cm
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
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Keys to History

During the 19th century, the experience of childhood changed more significantly for girls than it did for boys. Little boys-until the age of about 5 or 6-wore long, loose dresses like their sisters. As they got older they were dressed in pants-short pants for little boys, long pants for big boys. At a 1868 Sunday school picnic, the girls engaged sedately in archery while the little boys made "a fierce and continuous attack on the footballs."

Acadian Recorder (Halifax) 29 August 1868; Barbara Kaye Greenleaf, Children Through the Ages: A History of Childhood ( New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1978).

  • What

    The bigger of these boys is holding a toy sailboat. Toys were usually sex-specific and often related to the occupations of family members. In this case, the boys' father might have been a sea captain.

  • Where

    Toy sailboats were launched in ponds and streams, but larger model sailboats were regularly raced in harbours such as Halifax Harbour, where they attracted considerable interest.

  • When

    Enthusiasts continued to race model sailboats on Halifax Harbour until the Second World War, from 1939-1945.

  • Who

    Only the relatively wealthy could afford to buy toys sold in toy shops; for the children of the poor, toys were homemade.