You can tell a lot about how American culture has changed in the last century by looking at what changed — and what didn't — in the toy ads that ran in the Wisconsin State Journal between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The earliest toy ads in this look through the archives reveal the limitations of both manufacturing and worldview of early 20th Century Americ…

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When the Great Depression struck the United States, toy advertisers turned to more practical gifts for children. Ads promoted value, sale pric…

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The practicality of the 1930s continued early in the 1940s, but the end of World War II (which gave rise to the "Baby Boom") and the arrival o…

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Christmas ads from the 1950s show a growing toy landscape, with more variants and higher complexity in toys than before. Note the ad for the 1…

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The space race is evident in some of the ads from the 1960s, with science-tool toys like microscopes and telescopes finding their way into Chr…

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Electronics began their slow ascent to the top of the gift-giving list in the 1970s, with calculators, televisions, cameras, watches and clock…

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Electronic entertainment continued its rise to dominance with the debut of the laser disc and video game systems like Atari. The next generati…

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7 updates to this series since

Nick Heynen is the online editor for the Wisconsin State Journal and manages the newspaper's social media accounts. A Maryland native transplanted to Wisconsin, he joined the paper in 2007 as data reporter.

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