An article by Dr. Angela Keaton, assistant professor of history at Tusculum College, has been published by the Journal of American Culture.
Dr. Keaton’s article, “Backyard Desperados: American Attitudes Concerning Toy Guns in the Early Cold War Era,” was printed in the fall 2010 volume of the journal. The Journal of American Culture combines studies of American literature, history and the arts with studies of the popular, the taken-for-granted and the ordinary pieces of American life to produce analyses of American culture with breadth and holism.
The article describes how child’s play with toy guns was not only accepted but also encouraged by parents, psychologists and other experts and society at large in the early period of the Cold War in the 1950s, Keaton said.
The article explores the popularity of children playing “cowboys and cowboys” with the toy guns. Investigated in the article are the prevalent attitude of psychologists and other experts who described toy gun play as a good way for children to vent aggression and to reinforce strong masculine traits and the reassurance that the toy gun play gave parents as they saw their children mimicking a symbol of patriotic, American heritage in a time of great uncertainty as the nation faced the rise of Communism.
The marketing and business side of toy gun play are also described as television and movies popularized cowboys and westerns and gave rise to a demand for toy guns and holsters. The article also notes the decline of popularity of toy gun play in the 1960s as parents began to be distrustful of experts and “G.I. Joe” was introduced, a toy that concentrated not on America’s past but on what was the country’s contemporary battle against Communism.
Keaton presented the paper a few years ago at the American Cultural Association Conference, where it received an award for best paper.
The article is from Dr. Keaton’s doctoral dissertation, which she is working to turn into a book for publication.