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“Hercules” Toy Engine

Thomas Gilbert (Gib) Dickinson, Emily Dickinson’s nephew, was born in the midst of the Second Industrial Revolution. With its detailed chromolithograph (colored printing) decorations, this toy train engine shows how new technology and mass production were spreading into all parts of American life. Middle-class children like Gib were witnessing a shift from fully handmade toys to toys with (slightly) less expensive, mass-produced components.

Meanwhile, transportation was undergoing a shift of its own. Near The Evergreens was the Amherst and Belchertown Railroad, brought to town with the help of Gib’s grandfather Edward Dickinson. It’s easy to picture Gib in his nursery playing with this toy engine while the airy wails of train whistles drifted through the windows.