Mention the word ‘toy soldier’ and many an old man remembers having a set of colorfully painted or unpainted plastic soldiers as a child. Shoeboxes were full of Spacemen, Cowboys, Knights, Indians and Civil War figures. The fact that toy soldiers have been around since ancient Egyptian times attests to their timelessness. Such noted collectors as Winston Churchill and H.G. Wells were known to do battle with small armies.
Visitor Center Staff member Jim Stevenson collects and models war game 15mm (3/4-inch tall)miniatures. He started painting miniatures twenty-five years ago and his collection has expanded from a few hundred to over 9,000 today. Currently, he has armies from the Crusades, Napoleonic Wars, Revolutionary War, War Between the States and WWII (North Africa and the Eastern Front, as well as ships and planes from WWI and WWII. He says they have multiplied and taken over his basement!
Painting miniatures (or as his wife calls them, “little men”) is a hobby where he can delve into the history of uniforms, conflicts and military weaponry. He says he finds it relaxing to paint and rewarding when he gets a favorite unit or adversary ready to battle it out on a table top.
War gaming with little men has become a worldwide phenomenon with many active clubs. H.G. Wells wrote the first rules for playing with toy soldiers titled “Little Wars.” In his words it was “a game for boys from 12 to 150 and for that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys’ games and books.”
This is definitely a “must see” exhibit that will be in the Visitor Center until September. The Visitor Center and Museum is open every Friday and Saturday from 11 am to 4 pm.
• Foster a spirit of cooperation between existing organizations, writers, historians, genealogists, collectors, preservationists, and other members of the Shenandoah County community.
• Aid in the collection and creation of materials and publications about the history of Shenandoah County and ensure that they are preserved and made available to the community.
• Support efforts by citizens, organizations and government to preserve historic buildings and sites.
• Share history through programs and exhibits.
The Shenandoah County Historical Society was founded in 1985 and is established as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. It is completely volunteer driven. The Society is sustained by memberships, donations, grants and profits from book sales. All donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.