Noah's Ark Figures

Noah's Ark Figures

Usage conditions apply
Noah's ark toys [such as this one] have a long tradition in American culture, with many variation of the stylistic theme. Often, as here, they consist of a house on a flatboat and contain several animals. This one has a roof set on a cloth hinge. Opened, 13 small wooden animals are revealed, including a moose. It is likely that some of the animals are missing, as each animal is a single rather than part of a pair, unlike the Old Testament story. The windows and decoration are hand-painted and the piece is signed "Bentley J. Park, Searsport, Maine, March 4, 1888." Rooted in Puritan belief that children should be seen and not heard, especially on Sabbath, the only permissable toys after attending church were those with biblical themes.
In the days before public schooling, home education was more of a necessity than a choice. This toy was inventoried by the donor in 1965 as part of the contents of the Bass Harbor Country Store sent to the Smithsonian Institution. Why this toy was left on the store shelf more than 75 years after its creation must remain subject to conjecture. Considering that the store was located on Mount Desert Island, which was becoming a popular destination for wealthy tourists at the time it was made, perhaps by a worker in a local shipbuilding concern made it to augment support for his family at home, or perhaps it was an antique purchased by the store owner at a later date to provide ambiance reminiscent of a world undergoing rapid change.
Object Name
figures, set of (14)
figures, set of (13)
Date made
Park, Bentley J.
Place Made
United States: Maine, Searsport
Physical Description
paint (overall material)
fabric (overall material)
wood (overall material)
overall: 5 3/4 in x 13 in x 4 1/2 in; 14.605 cm x 33.02 cm x 11.43 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
The George C. Seybolt Collection of American Marketing Artifacts
Noah's Ark
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Religion
2W Gateway
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object