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‘The Myriopticon, A Historical Panorama: Rebellion’

by Maggie Turnipseed (04/10/09).

‘The Myriopticon, A Historical Panorama: Rebellion’

‘The Myriopticon, A Historical Panorama: Rebellion’

The name “The Myriopticon, A Historical Panorama: Rebellion” is not one that rolls off the tongue very easily, and “Myriopticon” is a word very few of us have ever come across. But suppose you find yourself at a flea market and come across a cardboard box that sports the word Myriopticon and looks like it might contain an old game. Upon closer inspection, you find the name Milton Bradley printed on it along with an inscription in pencil, dating the box from the 1860s. You’ve never seen anything like this, but the price is set at just a couple of dollars. What do you do?

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The inscription on the underside of the lid.

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The interior of the box.

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One of the scenes Milton Bradley copied from Harper's Weekly.

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Another scene, this one of an artillery battery.

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A battle scene. A script, which accompanied the Myricopticon, explained what was happening in each scene.

Well, WorthPoint member Kathleen, from North Carolina, came across such an item at a flea market some 13 or 14 years ago on the grounds of the Hershey Museum in Hershey, Pa. While looking at a table of odds and ends, she came across a small, colorful box. It read, “The Myriopticon A Historical Panorama Rebellion.” She recognized the name Milton Bradley, and when she opened the box, she saw that the colors of the contents were even brighter. Inscribed on the underside of the lid were the words: “Christmas 1869 from the clerks in Coley Newhaven, Conn.” Kathleen quickly made her purchase from the rather large, burly vendor. She can’t remember what she paid for it, but she is sure it was not more than a few dollars.

Like many flea-market finds, Kathleen set it aside for further investigation. Eventually, the small box ended up in storage and was forgotten. Recently, after moving, Kathleen came across the forgotten Myriopticon while going through some of her stored items. Wanting to know what this mysterious little box and contents were, she used the “Ask a Worthologist” feature on WorthPoint to obtain a valuation on the Milton Bradley game. Kathleen had done considerable research herself on the Internet, and she was looking for confirmation of her findings.

Liz Holderman, WorthPoint’s children’s books, toys and games Worthologist, did the valuation for Kathleen. Liz’s research confirmed much of what Kathleen had learned and much more.

Milton Bradley—a draftsman and printer from Springfield, Mass., who would become a household name for his board games—developed a boxed toy in 1868 that might be the seed that bloomed into today’s home theaters. The Myriopticon was a social/political statement of the day, The box simulated a staged show with a roll of paper depicting several scenes. The original box included the panorama, two winding cranks, a large advertising poster (measuring nearly 16″ x 11″), an eight-page booklet of instructions, a pair of admission tickets and a script, or “lecture.” Bradley copied the pictures depicting scenes from the Civil War from the magazine Harper’s Weekly himself, starting with General Anderson and his men entering Fort Sumter and ending with the burning and evacuation of Richmond. Bradley also wrote the script.

The instructions suggested placing a lit candle behind the panorama in a darkened room to illuminate the scenes as a narrator read the script while turning the rollers. There are variations and different editions of the panorama itself, which were updated to keep up with the current developments. Different editions contain 22 to 29 scenes, and some have scenes advertising other Milton Bradley toys.

While the panorama was not complete, Liz judged that the condition of the paper scroll and brightness of color was excellent. The Myriopticon is an amazing toy that provides a visual history of the Civil War in scrolling scenes. It is a fabulous piece and valued by both Civil War collectors and by toy collectors. Kathleen was very pleased with a fair-market value estimation of $6,000 to $7,000.

If you are in the area of Hershey, Pa., the 14th Annual Museum Car Show & Flea Market will beheld on June 27, 2009.

To view a working example of this panorama, click here.

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