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

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).


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.


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.


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


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

© Musée McCord Museum