This unusual antique toy kaleidoscope looks like it is from the 1920s. It is
marked "ZW" and "Made in Japan," and features a wacky assortment of drawings:
Two girls with large cartoon eyes are surrounded by Kewpies, birds, a temari
ball, maybe a chestnut, and flags of many nations. Not a lot of these Japanese
toy kaleidoscopes survived WWII, and I have never seen another one like it.
On one side, a girl wears a cloche hat with a large flower, a dropped waist
dress, a long flapper-style beaded necklace, and mary jane shoes with textured
blue socks. She holds a girl doll, and her face is round and shaped slightly
like Betty Boop's.
On the other side, another girl has a boldly patterned dress, cupid's bow
lips, striped socks, and mary jane shoes. She seems to be eating red berries or
candy from a plate being served to her by a flying Kewpie, while around her
feet little birds are pecking at the spilled food. Two more Kewpies stand
nearby, with one in a skirt or tutu.
Between the girls is a temari ball (a traditional Japanese craft, made of
intricately woven thread), and what looks like a chestnut with five leaves.
Over their heads are colorful garlands and the flags of Japan, Great Britain,
the United States, and what might be intended to be France, except both color
bands are red where one should be blue. You can also see just a bit of Japan's
military flag, with the red rays surrounding the sun.
I'd love to know what this all means—are these eastern and western girls
making friends after WWI? Is there any special symbolism to the creatures and
objects around them? It's a mystery!
The kaleidoscope is filled with plastic shapes that shift and form patterns
inside when you turn the orange base. It works well and looks better than in
It is marked "PAT 123373."
The lithographed paper feels like it is covering a rigid metal structure, but
the orange base is definitely just cardboard. It has wear and soiling, and the
yellow part is darkened almost to a brown mustard color. It is darker than it
appears in the photos. There are rubs, dents, and areas of color loss, visible
in the photos. An orange ribbon handle is still intact, rather miraculously
after nearly 100 years. The orange base shifts a little from side to side (see
second-to-last photo), but turns easily and is firmly attached.
Be sure to zoom in on each photo to see the details and condition.
9 inches tall (22.86 cm)
Add this scarce and wonderful kaleidoscope to your collection!
This kaleidoscope was collected by my genius mom over a lifetime of midwestern
thrift shopping. I would love to send it to you, as I work on finding Forever
Homes for all her wonderful rescued stuff. I bet you'd like her other things,
too, so check them out:
Find all my Kewpie items here:
If you don't see what you're looking for, drop me a line! There is WAY more
stuff than I've been able to post, and chances are I can locate it for you and
make you a special reserved listing.
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