Frank Kidd began collecting antique toys and banks as an adult, filling his automotive parts office with vehicular toys. Throughout the years his hobby expanded, citing a lack of playthings during his childhood. To date he has traveled around the world to amass over 15,000 toys, mechanical banks, and pieces of transportation memorabilia.
In Kidd’s Toy Museum, still located next door to his family auto parts business, the bulk of the toys featured were created from 1869 to 1939. Despite the faintly familiar smell of a grandmother’s attic, the museum stretches deeper than its simple, paper-labeled door would suggest. Rooms upon rooms contain stuffed toys ranging from Disney figurines and plush dolls, die-cast trains and railroad locks, and later sand-casting molds for cap guns, to name a few.
Though the assortment is wide-ranging and the pieces’ ornate details are engrossing, the mechanical banks are the crown jewel of Frank’s collection. Highlights include two banks featuring Jonah as he is swallowed by a whale, metal donkeys that kick coins into collection tins, and several gambling banks in which each (as best as can be gathered) attempts to predict the amount of deposit and spits out five times the dividend if accurate.
The museum is nearly compulsive in its organization, and Julie, the desk clerk is extremely helpful in answering questions about the origins or history behind specific pieces. No matter how impressive the scope of toys housed in Kidd’s Toy Museum, it pales in comparison to the remaining two-thirds of Frank’s collection that remains in storage for lack of display space.
It is requested that large tour groups give warning of their intended visit by calling ahead. Also, special visiting hours outside of those normally open to the public can be arranged via telephone, and it has been suggested that Frank, now semi-retired, occasionally acquiesces to requests for personal tours of his collection.
In March 2010 it was discovered that large parts of the Kidd collection, worth around $350,000 ,had been stolen from the house in which they were stored. “He’d been storing the toys for more than 25 years at a Southeast Portland house where his daughter once lived,” The Oregonian reported. “Kidd himself located one of the stolen toys, a 7’ long ceramic carousel horse worth $4,500, at a nearby second-hand store.”
A note to visitors: Due to the nature of these historical toys, a portion of the collection depicts figures in what would today be considered of a racially offensive manner, for they were a product of their times. However, the sheer confrontation with these antiquated representations of fellow human beings can provide an opportunity for reflection, and are no less valuable despite the reminder of the less pleasant aspects of our collective past. This note is included to prepare families for their visit, should such a sight provoke questions from children or others.
Know Before You Go
The museum is located in Portland's Inner East side, just north of the Hawthorne Bridge at 1301 SE Grand Avenue (also known as 99E), which is a one-way, northbound street. The cross street to the north of the museum is Main.Many buses stop within a few blocks of the museum. Plan your route at http://trimet.org.Upon arrival, follow directions taped on the door. Knock firmly, but be patient; sometimes it takes a few minutes before being admitted. If an inordinate amount of time has elapsed and the door has still not been answered, knock again. It seems sketchy, but it's really not.