Toy Steam Engine

Description (Brief)
This toy steam engine consists of a vertical boiler and horizontal slide valve engine. The museum’s catalogue records indicate that the toy was manufactured in the late 19th century, possibly by the J.E. Stevens Manufacturing Company or the Buckman Manufacturing Company, but no manufacturing marks can be seen on the object.
Live steam toys enjoyed a period of popularity from the 1880s until the 1930s. The miniature steam engines were marketed as both toys and instructive devices that mimicked full-scale steam-powered machines and allowed every boy and girl to be their own engineer. In toy steam engines, a heating source is introduced into the firebox below the boiler (early toys used lit wicks fueled by denatured alcohol, later toys used electricity) which heated the water to produce the steam pressure that ran the engine. A variety of accessories could be powered by the engine; attachments included windmills, pumps, grinders, and electric lights.
Currently not on view
Object Name
toy, steam engine and boiler
steam engine and boiler, toy
date made
late 19th century
Physical Description
brass (boiler material)
cast iron (bed material)
overall - from catalog card: 7 1/2 in x 11 in x 5 in; 19.05 cm x 27.94 cm x 12.7 cm
boiler - from catalog card: 4 in; x 10.16 cm
flywheel - from catalog card: 3 in; x 7.62 cm
overall: 7 3/8 in x 5 1/4 in x 10 3/4 in; 18.7325 cm x 13.335 cm x 27.305 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Engineering Steam Toys and Models
Engineering, Building, and Architecture
Family & Social Life
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanical and Civil Engineering
Engineering Steam Toys and Models
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Bequest of the Estate of Greville I. Bathe
maker referenced
Maass, Eleanor A.. Greville Bathe's "Theatre of Machines": The Evolution of a Scholar and His Collection

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