Tom McGhee, Museum Director at Bellingrath Gardens and Home, often writes a column in Bellingrath newsletter. Called "Curator's Corner," the pieces feature details about items in the Bellingrath Home collection, and writes a regular column in Mobile Bay Magazine about Gulf Coast history.
With the holidays coming, the article reprinted below, tells the history of a Christmas gift from the past.
"During the Christmas season," Mr. McGhee writes, "the Bellingrath Christmas tree dominates the Living Room, its base surrounded with wrapped presents.
"There is one exception: A large, pressed-metal toy horse wears only a ribbon.
"It was originally a Christmas gift from Walter Bellingrath to his great-nephew and namesake Walter Bellingrath Edgar in the late 1940s. Dr. Edgar passed his horse and its story to the Bellingrath Home.
"At the time he received the horse, Dr. Edgar excitedly called him 'Trigger' after Western star Roy Roger’s famous Palomino. By the time of the gift, Rogers had starred in dozens of westerns, had a radio show and was embarking on a television career. Between 1943 and 1954, Rogers was rated as the number one western star in the world.
"Walter Bellingrath would have none of that. “His name is ‘Traveller,’ ” explained the Coca-Cola bottler. Mr. Bell’s father had served in the Confederate army and he was a great fan of General Robert E. Lee, whose gray American Saddlebred horse actually matches the color of the ca. 1949 toy.
"And where did 'Trigger' or 'Traveller' come from?
"Ironically, he is from England, where he was simply known as the “Mobo Bronco.” Upon inspection, his stirrups are impressed with “Mobo” -- a play on “Mobile Toys.” D. Sebel & Co. of Kent, England had patented the design in 1942, but was unable to begin production until after the end of World War II. When a young rider mounts the bronco, his feet push down on the stirrups to propel the toy forward.
"This popular toy would be produced until 1972, when cheaper plastic toys took over the market."