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Noah’s ark toy

Plaything said to belong to Willie Oleson.

The Noah’s ark was the most wonderful thing that Laura had ever seen. They all knelt down and squealed and laughed over it. There were zebras and elephants and tigers and horses; all kinds of animals, just as if the picture had come out of the paper-covered Bible at home. -On the Banks of Plum Creek, Chapter 22, “Town Party”


The Noah’s ark toy has always been popular; or, as an 1868 book put it, immortal – even though the pieces were not in proportion to each other and they were frequently swallowed! – E. Littell’s Living Age. Boston: Littell and Gay, 1868, page 633. Many families kept the Noah’s ark as a Sunday toy and they were rarely played with. This may be one reason why antique Noah’s ark toys can sometimes be found in excellent condition.

The Flood and History of Noah.

The following is from Mary Bradford’s The Bible Opened for Children, published in 1866 by Cassell, Peter, and Galpin, in London. As a child’s story of the story of Noah and the ark, it is typical of the stories published when Laura Ingalls was a small child.

I am sure you have often seen the pretty rainbow in the sky, dear children, with its soft colors, and you would, I dare-say, like to know why God placed it there.

After Adam and Eve were driven out of the garden of Eden, the earth became more thickly peopled; that is, there were more men and women in it; and these people were very wicked, so wicked that after some time God determined to destroy them all by a great flood, which washed every living thing and everybody from off the earth, except one good man, whose name was Noah, who was saved from the flood in the following way. God told him to build a house, which should be like a boat at the bottom, and into this house Noah took his wife, and his sons and daughters, and two of every animal and bird; and your little toy, called “Noah’s ark,” with its contents, is in imitation of the house Noah lived in when the earth was all covered with water. The high hills also were covered with water, and every living thing that was not in the ark died.

At length God caused all the water to go back from all the earth. It went away very slowly; Noah let a dove fly out of the ark when he saw that the water was going away; but the little dove flew round and round, and then came back again, for she could not find a green tree to perch on, or anywhere to rest her little feet. Noah waited seven days more, and then he let the dove fly again; and in the evening she came back with a green leaf in her beak, and that showed Noah the waters were subsiding, and that he would soon be able to leave the ark. And when he did so they must all have been very glad to be able to walk about again; and the animals must have been very glad to have some nice green grass to eat once more. God promised that He would never destroy the people off the earth by a flood any more, and as a sign of this promise He made the beautiful rainbow to be seen in the sky when the sun shines after a shower of rain. So, whenever you look at the pretty rainbow, I hope you will remember why God made it, and think how very wicked the people must have been to make God so very angry as to destroy them all. Now for the questions, if you wish to ask any.

Henry. Yes, Mama, I want to know where Noah put all the animals in the ark. Was the great elephant in there?

Mama. Yes, my love, the great elephant and the little mouse, and even the little fly and the busy bee, were in the ark. This we are very sure of, because the Bible tells us that two of every living thing went in. What became of them all while in the ark, I cannot tell you; but I think it is very likely that God, who is able to do with everything just as He likes, made the great beasts tame for a time, and content to stay quietly in the ark until Noah let them out.

Charles. Thank you, dear Mama; I am very glad to know why the pretty rainbow is in the sky, and now I know why you say when we are waiting to go out on a rainy day, “Oh, it will be fine now, for there is a rainbow.”

Mama. Yes, the storm generally clears away when the rainbow comes.


Noah’s ark, toy (BPC 22)