Kidd's Toy Museum

Entrance to Kidd's Toy Museum

Behind the bland blue door of a warehouse in SE Portland, is perhaps one of the largest private toy collections out there. I took the kids recently (in February) to check out hundreds of toys dating mostly from the 1860's to the 1930's. Although, I saw some stuff from later years, as well. The lady behind the messy desk there told me that there's even more to the collection, but is currently in various warehouses. They simply don't have the money or space to have the entire Kidd's toy collection available to the public. But what is available to view is quite impressive.

A fascinating place. And better yet, it's free!

Oh, and I have to say this: visiting the museum offered the opportunity for me to talk to Ava about racism. Hadn't planned on it, but hey, no time like the present.

Other hours by appointment or chance
No frills: the museum's hours taped up on the door. Love the "by appointment or chance" line.

Everything's behind glass cases
Everything's behind glass cases, so it's safe for the little ones to check out the toys. Just don't bump into them, of course.

The Disney case
A half-awake Ezra sits next to a case filled with various Disney-related toys.

Mickey toy
A Mickey pull-toy from the 30's.

Three Mickeys
We Three Mickeys: Interesting to see the different ways Mickey was depicted back then.

Felixes and Oswald
Felix is a great character that pre-dates Mickey. While taking this shot, I noticed the rabbit in the background: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Disney's first cartoon character.

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: Disney's first cartoon character, co-created by Walt and Ub Iwerks. I couldn't get any closer without blurry shots, but underneath Oswald's name, "Universal" is mentioned. That's Ferdinand The Bull from the Disney short film of the same name (1938).

Umm....not sure what to make of this. Kinda creeps me out. It's chalkware, that's for sure.

More banks
The place had tons of coin banks. TONS of 'em. Here's a few of the smaller ones.

Toy motorcycles. Check out Popeye in the middle there.

My Dad owned one of those orange metal cab cars on the lower shelf there. I think he still has it at home. Came from his dad when he was a kid.

Porcelain, I think
Odd assortment of porcelain (I think) heads. Anyone know what these are for?

Various oddities. Your guess is as good as mine.

Old pulp comics
Old pulp comics. I remember my grandparents having one or two of these around for the kids.

Ezra trying out a coin bank
Ezra trying out a coin bank at the entry. Never could get the thing to work right. Ezra, of course, got mad.


Since this is a historical collection of toys throughout the decades, mostly pre-1940's, there are several cases that have very un-PC depictions of African-Americans, mostly coin banks in blackface. These depictions are ugly to see, yet important not to forget. I've chosen not to show any photos of these items mainly because I don't feel that it's up to me to do so. I wasn't aware of the items when we visited the museum, but upon seeing the cases, I figured that I couldn't just hide them from Ava. (Ezra was asleep in my arms at the time.) I decided to sit down with her before we entered the room and talk to her about what she was about to see: about the past and how certain races of people were depicted back then. It was wrong then, as it is wrong now, but I told her that it's important to see these items and talk openly about who we are as a human race. I wanted her to see it for what it was: something ugly from our past and hopefully we've learned from it. To see blacks shown as lesser human beings on children's toys to having an African-American in charge of one of the most powerful countries on earth shows that we've definitely made some progress. But, I told her, it doesn't mean that others still won't make fun of and have hatred toward other races. And that is wrong.

Ava listened intently. "Why did they make them look like that? It looks ugly."

"I know," I sighed. "I guess that was their point back then."

So, if you want some racial education to go along with your children's entertainment one fine day in Portland, then Kidd's Toy Museum is for you.

Some more photos can be found in my Kidd's Toy Museum Flickr set.


  1. Mickey and Felix haven't looked better. Great post! and photos...would love to make it over there if I'm ever in Portland.

  2. Can you tell me where that museum is??? I wanna check it out!!!!! email me, ejuan@laika.com

  3. Even though it looks orange. it is a model of a Yellow Cab Company taxi, circa 1926. My grandparents on my mother's side had it in a toy box at their house and I played with it every time we visited. Still have it.

  4. I think that those heads you were wondering about could be head vases. I had a friend in college whose dad collected them. They were inexpensive and popular with florists in the 1940s and 1950s. I always thought they were creepy.

  5. That place looks amazing.

  6. just found your blog. cool post. there is a similar toy museum here in baltimore that I have not been to, but this inspires me to check it out.

  7. Great photos of some really
    cool toys. It's amazing that
    to visit the place is FREE!

    This is Spencer M in GA :D

  8. An amazing place and such a rich collection. So generous of them to share it for free. Thanks for bringing us along.

  9. Thank you for writing about and sharing your discussion about racism with your daughter.

    Your link was sent to me by a fellow illustrator who knew I also live in Portland. Will definitely check out the museum soon! Fantastic collection! Then I realized I've seen your website before via Twitter via Drawn. Love your work. I'm also the art director of Oregon Business Magazine and would love to hire you someday. Plus I'm already following you on Twitter and Flickr. =X

    Thanks again.

  10. A good man you are, Ward. Thanks.

  11. Wow, this museum looks fantastic! I would have had so much fun here. I had enough fun at yard sales this weekend finding toys from my childhood! lol

  12. great post - our family also had the opportunity to visit the museum during our trip to portland in early april. it was quite fascinating seeing all of the different types of antique toys. the railroad locks were also quite interesting...

    yes, i also wasn't prepared to school my daughter (she's 8) on racism when we went there, but found that seeing the racist toys/banks there was a worthwhile learning experience. i liked how you handled it. i pretty much said the same things to her...she was very puzzled and saddened as to why people would make toys to make fun of a certain race of people...

    portland was such a fun city to visit and we hope to go there again in the near future. beside the kidd museum, we also enjoyed the Velveteria! that place was awesome! anyhows, cheers! I'm glad i saw your blog/post.

  13. Enrico, I thought they would be banks too, but they had all the banks in another section of the museum. Thanks for the comment, though. I might just go back and visit again some day and ask!