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My Division


Amache Archaeology Collection

Connecting the Pieces: Dialogues on the Amache Archaeology Collection Online Exhibit  

Wyandotte Toy Airplane

Pressed steel, 3.25'' long. Found in Block 11F.


When Amache families left their homes, they packed only their most precious items. Despite luggage limitations, they gave some of that valuable space to toys for their children. Archaeologists found this broken toy airplane in the common areas of a barracks block. This toy was produced in the late 1930's by Wyandotte Toy Company.

This was a likely a beloved toy, already years old when it arrived at Amache with its owner. The airplane had hooked back wings, windows, and no guns attached signifying that it was a passenger plane. The plane would have originally had wheels made of rubber or wood. What games can you imagine were played with the plane? Adventures set in the future? Travel outside of camp? Covert spy operations? To think of these games provides insight into the lives of children in Amache.

Avery Niemann and Colin Orlowski, DU Student Curators

Intact example of the Mystery Plane from Wyandotte Toy Company. Collectors date this plane to the late 1930s. Analysis of the toy's material confirms this date. Steel toys were not made during the war due to metal rationing.
Courtesy of Ebay.

Personal Reflection

In the two decades between the World Wars, the American toy industry reflected the innovations of flight that were developed during WWI and the early years of commercial air travel. One company, Wyandotte Toys, whose original name was All Metal Products Co., manufactured all manner of toys from its start in 1921 to its closing in 1957. Although the company became popular with a variety of guns, during the Depression it began stamping out toy cars, baby carriages and airplanes. Many of its toy planes were standard copies of WWI warplanes or typical planes, but one model sold during the late 1930s was different. The Mystery Plane embraced the science fiction hits of the day, Buck Rogers (a comic strip first published in 1929) and Flash Gordon (whose comic strip debuted in 1934).

These pre-space age heroes sparked the imagination of Americans including children–especially young boys. During times of economic hardship, it must have been a thrill to follow the adventures of cool guys in a far-off, future time and place. And Wyandotte's Mystery Plane played to that fantasy – it was a normal airplane with propellers, but its wings were extended backwards like a space-rocket design. It appeared aerodynamic in ways that looked forward into the future, not the past. It was all about speed and hope. That sense of hope still surrounds the rusted, broken Mystery Plane that was found at Amache, in an open space between a barrack and mess hall. It begs us to imagine a young child, probably a boy, playing with this utterly cool-looking plane during his family's incarceration.

One of the wings may have broken from rough play, or maybe it was dropped and remained unnoticed and the wing broke when someone stepped on it. Then the red paint oxidized, and steel rusted over the decades, the now-lonely toy waiting to be discovered. The plane, which is more mysterious today than it was 70 years ago, must have symbolized hope for the child who played with it, holding it against the endless blue sky of Southeast Colorado: Hope for the future, and hope of freedom for the close to 10,000 people imprisoned in Amache.

-   Gil Asakawa, Community Curator, Sansei (third generation Japanese American), author of Being Japanese American

Left: Avery Niemann, DU Student Curator. Center: Gil Asakawa, Community Curator. Right: Colin Orlowski, DU Student Curator.