Toy bus, "tourist bus with four tourists", designed by Kay Bojesen, Copenhagen, Denmark, 1940s, made 1940-1986
This painted wooden bus was designed in the 1940s by the influential Danish toy designer Kay Bojesen (1886-1958). He was apprenticed to Georg Jensen, the well-known silver designer. However, it was Bojesen's timber toys, which he began designing in 1922 for his son, which were to bring him international acclaim. Bojesen was the first to apply the Danish arts and crafts style to toys.
Despite being developed in the 1940s, the design of this small wooden toy is timeless. It represents the best of classic Danish design through its clean and simple lines, minimalist decoration and bold colours. Bojesen designed wooden figures, animals, trains, cars, and a farm. This occurred at a time when other toy manufacturers had moved away from wood decades before and were working in tin and developing injection moulding techniques and new plastics.
Bojesen was said to have been an inspiration to other major Danish designers including Piet Hein, Magnus Steffensen and Ole Wansher. His designs became very popular in the 1950s and 1960s and were extensively copied around the world. They were well liked by kindergarten teachers, parents and children for their durability and the way they encouraged creativity and imagination.
Information supplied by Gustav Rithmester, Denmark.
Curator, Transport & Toys
This toy bus was designed by the well-known Danish designer, Kay Bojesen (1886-1958) in the 1940s. Kay Bojesen was born in Copenhagen in 1886, the son of the bookshop owner and publisher, Ernst Bojesen. At first Kay began training to be a grocer but between 1906 and 1910 served an apprenticeship as a silversmith with the famous Danish designer, Georg Jensen. After working in Paris and further training in Germany he returned to Copenhagen and worked as a silversmith for Oscar Dahl in Frederiksbereggade. He took over the workshop there and with his son established his own company in 1913, moving to Nybrogade 14, Copenhagen.
Bojesen worked largely in silver and steel but in 1922 began designing wooden toys. By the late 1920s he had moved away from Jensen's "Skonvirke style" and worked towards developing a modern Danish arts and crafts style called "Den Permanenta" (The Permanent). Toys were made in a more simple style with curves rather than sharp edges.
In 1930 Bojesen sold his workshop and became artistic administrator at Bing and Grondahl. In 1932 he opened his own business again, as an independent silversmith with a shop in Copenhagen at Bredgade 47. Although he continued to work in silver it was his wooden toys which eventually brought him international acclaim.
Bojesen did not make his own products. They were made by a number of different manufacturers in Denmark. One of these was Langeskov Legetojsfabrik, near Nyborg, on the Danish island of Fyn. This firm made a wide selection of his toys including cars, trains, horses and soldiers. Some of his toys were also made under licence in Holland and Sweden as well as the in the USA under the name Boysen Toys. Unfortunately a number of Bojesen's toy designs were illegally copied by other companies and he spent much time trying to protect his patents.
The Bojesen shop operated until his death in 1958 and after that was continued by his widow, Erna Bojesen, until her death in 1986, and then by his family for a short time. As well as toys, Bojesen's Danish arts and crafts style was also applied to wooden bowls, trays, cutting boards and egg cups. He also designed nursery ware made in melamine and worked in bamboo and cane with the Royal Court basket maker, R. Wengler, designing doll's house furniture. In 1991 the rights to manufacture Bojesen's wooden toy animals and guardsmen and his award-wining Grand Prix cutlery were acquired by Erik Rosendahl of Lundtofte where (in 2009) it is still being made.
Bojesen lived long enough to see his designs acknowledged and was made an honorary member of the National Association of Danish Arts and Crafts. He was also recognised by the Danish National Committee of the OEMP (World Organisation for Early Childhood Education) for his educational toys. His classic timber toys are now sought by collectors.
Information supplied by Gustav Rithmester
"Kay Bojesen Biography" at www.kayb.dk
"Some facts about Kay Bojesen" at www.kaybojesendesign.dk
"Kay Bojesen Biography" at www.picassomio.com
This bus is part of a collection of Danish toys bequeathed to the Museum by the late Monica Piddington in 1970. Monica Piddington (1899-1967) was born at Narrandera, NSW, and became a kindergarten teacher. In the 1930s she became the first director of the famous Sydney Playways educational toy shop which opened in Dalley Street, near Circular Quay, and was owned by the Kindergarten Union. Apparently Monica travelled around the world collecting toys of 'superior design, craftsmanship and quality' making them available to Australian teachers, parents and children. In the 1960s the shop moved to Clarence Street. After the Kindergarten Union decided to sell the business, it was taken over by the staff, all Early Childhood graduates, and re-opened as the Play House Toy Shop which operated from 1989 until 2007.