DIGGING FOR GOLD – PART 1

Much like the “old” Freek Kinkelaar blog pages (remember them?), I thought it would be a nice touch to add some descriptions of records or vinyl object I happen to like on these pages as well. The first one in this new series, called Digging for gold, is a wonderful 50s children’s toy object, the Red Raven Magic Mirror. Pre-dating the moving newspapers in Harry Potter by 60 years, this gorgeous toy holds more magic than professor Dumbledore. 

Enjoy the series!

Being a kid in America in the mid 50s was an exciting time. Even when you were a little too young to listen to rock and roll, there was still money ‘a plenty to spend on America’s thriving youth. As a result toy companies were imaginative and explorative, searching for new concepts to keep the young happy. The Red Raven toy company was one of those innovative companies. In 1956 they introduced the Red Raven Magic Mirror player. Imagine finding one of those in your Christmas stocking! The Magic Mirror was in fact a “praxinoscope”, more commonly known as a “zoetrope”, which loosely translates as “wheel of life”; a perfect name for a device that produces the illusion of movement using a rapid succession of static pictures. Chinese prototypes of the design go back to the year 180, but it can be said that the popular western zoetrope was introduced in 1834 by British mathematician William George Horner who called his invention the Daedalum (or “the devil’s wheel” – a name which certainly would have put off parents!). Red Raven’s version of the zoetrope used mirrors which reflected the images on the picture disc and made them come alive right before your eyes. Pure Magic! Movies of the Magic Mirror spinning in action can be found on YouTube. The music on the discs, which rotated at 78 rpm, was provided by the Red Raven Orchestra, directed by George S. Chase and featured exiting titles such as The Wobblin’ Goblin, The Little Red Engine and Raggedy Ann all with suitable animations on the discs. The first series of Magic Mirrors featured a replaceable cap and were tailored for use on old-fashioned tall-centre pin record players (enabling you to stack and play more records on the record player without having to change them). When these players went out of fashion, a second design of the Magic Mirror was introduced with solid top of the mirror, which were suitable for short centre pin record players. Early editions of the records were 6 inch-sized picture discs with a metal edge. When these proved too expensive for retail, they were replaced by colored vinyl discs, which had the zoetrope image printed on an enlarged carton label. Even though there were literally dozens of different discs, they are annoyingly hard to locate in mint condition today, as they were produced as children’s toys. The earlier type Magic Mirror is slightly more valuable as are the metal-edged picture discs, but once bought they give pleasure for many magical hours, not just to children, but also to record collectors (who are big children anyways).

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