Minstrel sand toy

In the early 19th century, glass faced boxes appeared containing jointed figures in the front half and a sealed compartment in the rear. The rear compartment contained a funnel at the top with a paddle wheel below it. A horizontal shaft ran from the wheel through the upright central partition into the back of a the jointed figure in the front section. The rear compartment also contained a measure of fine sand. To activate the figure the box was held upright and then turned twice counter clockwise. This action filled the funnel with sand which then fell steadily onto the paddle wheel. As the paddle wheel turned it gave movement to the figure in the front of the box that could last for a couple of minutes. Because of their paper construction many of these sand toys have not survived the passing of time and very few are found in working condition.

This example, depicting a banjo playing minstrel, is almost certainly of French origin and probably made in the 1870s. It is in excellent working order - please view the video to see him in action.

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