Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Sand toy

Sand toy

  • Place of origin:

    France (made)

  • Date:

    1850-1870 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Camagni, Gerard (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Sand, glass and paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Museum of Childhood, Moving Toys Gallery, case 7

Sand toys are very rare and very fragile, although they were made in large numbers in Germany. This one features a dancing woman, and is unusual as it was made in France. They operate by fine sand from a hopper trickling on to a paddle wheel and tended to work better in dry weather.

Physical description

Glass front cardboard box, covered on all side but the front with green on cream printed papers and around the edge of the glass with gold paper stamped with a cable pattern (passe partout). The toy itself consists of the sand toy equipment inside the box fronted by a sheet of white paper showing in the centre suspended on a very fine wire is the figure of a woman. The figure's feet rest on the base covered with patterned cream and brown printed paper the rest of the glass is infilled with a scalloped ridge of green tissue paper at the top and a strip of turquoise stamped paper at the bottom.Figure is of a woman dressed in 18th century clothing, printed in red blue and black, holding a blue ribbon between her hands
jointed at the waist and both legs. At the back there are layers of paper indicating that the box has been opened several times; centre back covered with a dirty blue card sheet.

Place of Origin

France (made)


1850-1870 (made)


Camagni, Gerard (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Sand, glass and paper

Marks and inscriptions

7A 1-1
inscription on the back, Kendall identification

Sand Toy // 1850
hand written on back in pencil


Height: 7 in, Width: 5 in, Depth: 2.25 in

Object history note

These sand toys were bought from the Evelyn Way Kendall Collection sale, at Sothebys, London on December 16, 1999. Three of the items are mid 19th century and the fourth was constructed by Mrs. Kendall's husband Henry W, in 1940.
The Kendall Collection was very large and housed in a purpose built display near Boston, Mass. Sadly the collection was not on view to the general public even though it was part of a large complex which included a whaling museum open to the public. Few people had the privilege of seeing the collection in situ, however, I (Caroline Goodfellow) did see it in 1994 and spent an afternoon there. Unfortunately Mrs. Kendall, along with others of her age and purchasing power, had changed many of the dolls from their original state, re dressed, cleaned and "repaired". Many of the costumes were swopped around the dolls and it is only possible to know this now through old photos and sale catalogues.
The toys, including the sand toys, were usually left alone and suffered little in the manner of the dolls. There has been some repair work, however, as Henry Kendall enjoyed the mechanical toys it is likely he did the work.

Historical significance: Although some instructions indicate that the toy could be used for weather forecasting, they are not weather forecasting equipment. The reason it could be used is when the weather is damp it makes the flow of the sand more difficult and the mechanism will stop. Fair dry weather is best for the toy.

Historical context note

Sand toys are mechanical devices with a long history, operated by fine sand from a hopper trickling on to a paddle wheel. The principles of the mechanism was known in ancient Egypt. Sets of paper cut out figures with jointed limbs were attached to the wheel, and would be animated through the action of the sand. The origins of this type of toy are are French, but other countries (including the UK, Germany and, much later, the USA) copied the principles and much later. This method was eventually succeeded by more robust mechanisms. The subjects depicted on sand toys were often whimsical or commemorative. Nineteenth century examples are rare, as the toys were fragile and easily broken. They were also not made in great numbers.

Sand toys are occasionally reproduced today using the same principles.

Descriptive line

Sand toy made in France between 1850 and 1870


Sand; Glass; Paper


Children & Childhood; Dolls & Toys

Production Type



Museum of Childhood

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.