Visiting Scholar Amy F. Ogata presents her research.

Children’s playthings are perhaps some of the most familiar and seemingly innocent objects. Yet as objects made to amuse and stimulate developing minds, they are often laden with ideological assumptions, class values, and nationalistic beliefs. The heightened focus on children owing to the “baby boom”—the dramatic rise in the US birthrate from 1946 to 1964—stimulated a national debate over techniques of childrearing, encouraged sharp public interest in education, and unprecedented spending on children during the period. While children reflected an image of hope and renewal after World War II, they also became the focus of a deep sense of collective anxiety over the future of American culture. In the context of Cold War politics, psychological research, and a critical reassessment of the national character, I argue that designers and “toy” manufacturers developed and promoted objects that reflected a growing faith in “creativity” as an authentic value that could redeem society after the destruction of war and encourage a competitive edge in mid-century middle-class America.

Amy F. Ogata received a B.A. from Smith College, and her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Art and Archaeology from Princeton University. She has taught at the Cleveland Institute of Art and since 1998, is Assistant Professor at the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture. Her areas of research interest are late nineteenth-century and twentieth-century architecture, design, and material culture in Europe and America.

Amy F. Ogata was a Visiting Scholar at the CCA in 2004.

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