From teddy bears to train sets, classic playthings of youth often conjure memories of a gleaming toy store, holidays, or birthdays. So curators at The Strong National Museum of Play branched out when they added the stick to their collection of all-time beloved toys. Among the most versatile amusements, sticks have inspired central equipment in several sports, including baseball, hockey, lacrosse, fencing, cricket, fishing, and pool. Humble twigs are also ready-made for fetch, slingshots, toasting marshmallows, and boundless make-believe.
Located in Rochester, New York — about 70 miles northeast of Fischer-Price’s headquarters — The Strong acquired the fledgling National Toy Hall of Fame in 2002. (It was previously located in the Gilbert House Children's Museum in Salem, Oregon.) To date, 74 toys have been inducted, including Crayola Crayons, Duncan Yo-Yos, and bicycles. The stick was added in 2008, three years after another quintessential source of cheap childhood delight: the cardboard box.
Circa 3500 BCE in the modern-day Middle East, Mesopotamians rooted sticks in the ground to craft the earliest versions of sundials. The approximate time could be determined by measuring the length and position of the stick’s shadow. Over the next 1500 years, Egyptians substituted stone obelisks that functioned in a similar way. Since the late 19th century, America has been home to the world’s tallest obelisk, the 555-foot Washington Monument.