Toy, 'Robin Hood' fiddle sticks, cardboard / metal, made by Rozelle Wood Products, Leichhardt, New South Wales, Australia, c. 1938
This 'Robin Hood' brand game of fiddle sticks comprises a cardboard cylinder which contains thin, wooden sticks with painted and pointed ends. The game is thought to have originated in China and has been made and played around the world under various names including pick-up sticks, pick-a-stick and jackstraws in the U.S.A.; Mikado in Europe; Spillikins or Spellicans in Britain and Canada; and Jonchets in France. They were traditionally made of wood and later plastic but ivory and bone were early materials.
These "Robin Hood" fiddle sticks were made in the Sydney suburb of Leichhardt in about 1938 by R.W.P. (Rozelle Wood Products). The Robin Hood brand refers to the 1938 Warner Bros' film "The Adventures of Robin Hood". The tube features a line drawing of the famous Australian-born actor, Errol Flynn (1909-1959) similar to that used in the poster art for the film. It is a very early example of a commercial film tie in.
This toy's name may have come from the exclamation of frustration "fiddlesticks" or possibly another cinema tie-in with the 1930 cartoon by the name of "Fiddlesticks". This cartoon was the first animated sound cartoon to be produced in two-strip technicolour.
The fiddle sticks game is also an early and rare example of a Sydney-made toy which continued to be produced until at least the 1960s. It has an excellent provenance as it belonged to the Sydney artist, photographer and author, Daphne Kingston, b. 1928, and used by her while she lived in Mackay, Queensland, in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
In a modern twist, (in 2011) a pick-up-sticks 3D game can be downloaded where the player can click their mouse on the sticks to move them one by one. The same fine motor skills, patience and social interaction cannot be achieved from playing this version of the game.
Curator, Transport & Toys
Information provided by Daphne Kingston in 2011.
"The Mercury" Friday 17 February 1939, p.3.
"Cairns Post", Monday 12 December 1938, p.12.
Spillikins, V & A Museum of Childhood http://www.vam.ac.uk/moc/collections/games/outdoor/spillikins/index.html
Fiddlesick (film) Wikipedia entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiddlesticks_%28film%29
The toy fiddle sticks were made by R.W.P. (Rozelle Wood Products), Leichhardt, New South Wales, Australia, c. 1938.
Playing with fiddle sticks involved removing the bundle of thin wooden sticks from the cylinder, holding them vertically just above a table and letting them fall into a pile. Manual dexterity was required to carefully remove one stick at a time without dislodging or upsetting the pile. The game could be played alone or with a group. Once the sticks moved it was the turn of the next player. Points were scored for successfully removing certain sticks with coloured ends. The end of the game occurred when the last stick was picked up.
This game of fiddle sticks belonged to Daphne Watt (nee Kingston) and was her favourite as a child (used between 1938 and 1944). Daphne was born in Sydney but grew up in Mackay, Queensland. As an adult, Daphne recalled that she continued to use her "fiddle sticks" skills. When faced with a pile of washing up after a dinner party at home (before dishwashers), Daphne applied the fiddle sticks game objectives to a pile of washed cutlery, trying not to dislodge the other items in the pile when picked up for drying.
"Robin Hood" brand fiddle sticks were being advertised for sale in a Christmas promotion in the "Cairns Post" in 1938 for a store called, Boland's. It noted that:" Robin Hood Fiddle Sticks, latest Southern craze in Games priced at 2/3". (The city of Cairns is located on the Far North Coast of Queensland, north of Mackay). The following year it appeared in Oldham, Beddome & Meredith Pty Ltd's Book Arcade in Hobart, Tasmania, and was advertised in 1939 in "The Mercury" as "Fiddle Sticks, the game of Robin Hood, played through the centuries by young and old. 2/-, posted 3d extra".