Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection
On View November 26, 2021 – February 27, 2022
The New-York Historical Society is pleased to welcome back Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection featuring a special look at never-before-seen amusement park rides! Joining a selection of toy trains, figurines, and miniature models from the renowned Jerni Collection—on view November 26, 2021 – February 27, 2022—are:
- the Doll et Cie Ferris Wheel, the largest Ferris wheel in the Jerni Collection with its six gondolas, 17 figures, music box, ticket booth, and hanging lamps;
- a roller coaster toy from the turn of the 20th century with a looping track;
- carousel swing rides from the early 1900s;
- a toy Zeppelin modeled on early German airships;
- a rare “Chocolate Station” with working chocolate dispenser;
- a variety of toy train stations dating from the turn of the 20th century to the World War II era; and
- miniature streetcars, all showcasing the evolving designs of American and European toymakers.
Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.
The carnival toys on display recall the colossal machines that have fascinated and delighted the American public for decades, like the Ferris wheel, which was first seen in the U.S. at Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. One of the nation’s earliest roller coasters was introduced in 1884 at New York’s Coney Island, which was also the site of one of the United States’ first carousels. The toys that followed helped American children learn about new mechanical technologies, whether they were cranked or powered by clockwork or steam.
An early train station (from 1895–1900) from toymaker Märklin includes a café with a working chocolate dispenser that children could operate with a small ring. Only a small number of these miniature stations are known to exist today, recalling the long history of candy’s connection to train travel. A returning favorite is the Blue Comet express train, produced by American toymaker H.E. Boucher in 1929 and modeled on the real New Jersey Central express train. Also on view is a set of sculpted and decorated miniature figures from 1932–36, depicting Black porters, coachmen, and cooks—demonstrating the demographics of the American railway labor force prior to World War II.
Acquired by New-York Historical in 2014, the Jerni Collection epitomizes a golden age of toy manufacture and transportation. Though railroad travel has declined, toy trains remain popular and continue to delight children and the young at heart.
Private Tours and Family Programs
Personalized group tours of Holiday Express are available for booking, allowing private groups to explore the exhibition with a Museum docent. Groups can learn about the history of trains as well as Märklin’s aerodynamic Schienenzeppelin, or rail-zeppelin, which is modeled after an actual locomotive that emerged in Germany in the years following World War I. Private tours make a unique gift for train lovers.
Holiday and train-themed family programs take place in person and via Zoom throughout the exhibition’s run. Every day during December School Vacation Week (Monday, December 27 – Friday, December 31 at 3:30 pm ET), children are invited to take part in Train Tales and Crafts online. Each class includes a hello song, silly movement activities, a train-themed story book reading, and a train-themed craft to do at home. Digital family guides are also available for families visiting the Museum in person, including a train-themed ‘I Spy’ scavenger hunt for trains, airplanes, animals, and more. Little New-Yorkers programs―story time and crafts for kids ages 3-6―take place online on Tuesdays and in person on Fridays and feature train-themed stories in December. And just in time for the holidays, Sunday Story Time returns in person at the Museum with winter and holiday stories as well as Living History programs on Sunday, December 12 and Sunday, December 19, where historical interpreters share fascinating details about winter traditions in 18th-century America.
About the Jerni Collection
Since its acquisition by the New-York Historical Society in 2014, the Jerni Collection has become a highlight of the Museum’s holdings. Assembled over the course of five decades by U.S. collectors Jerry and Nina Greene, the Jerni Collection is considered one of the world’s leading collections of antique model trains and toys. It includes unique, handcrafted, and hand-painted pieces dating from approximately 1850 to 1940, and features prime examples by the leading manufacturers that set the standard for the Golden Age of Toy Trains, including the German firms of Märklin and Bing, as well as the American firms Lionel and Ives.
Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection was coordinated by Debra Schmidt Bach, curator of decorative arts. Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Evelyn & Seymour Neuman Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor.
About New-York Historical Society
New York City’s first museum, the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library was founded in 1804. The Patricia D. Klingenstein Library—one of the most distinguished in the nation—fosters research through its outstanding collections, which holds millions of books, newspapers, maps, manuscript and archival collections, prints, photographs, and architectural collections. The Museum presents groundbreaking history and art exhibitions as well as public programs that convey the stories of New York and the nation’s diverse populations to the broadest possible public.
The New-York Historical Society is located at 170 Central Park West at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street), New York, NY 10024. Information: (212) 873-3400. Website: nyhistory.org. Follow the museum on social media at @nyhistory on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Tumblr.
About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies has sponsored the annual Holiday Express exhibition at the New-York Historical Society since 2014. Bloomberg Philanthropies works to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people by focusing on five key areas: arts, education, environment, government innovation, and public health. For more information, please visit bloomberg.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.