ABC Blocks

design for Loy's alphabet game
ABC Blocks. Mina Loy Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature, Bienecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

In the summer of 1940, Loy wrote to iconic toy company F.A.O. Schwarz proposing a children’s Alphabet block toy designed by her. Loy sent three prototypes (although the third incomplete), a supplementary explanation, and a scripted dialogue for a child and older adult. The prototypes remain unrealized by F.A.O. Schwarz, even as they suggest Loy’s never-ending enthusiasm for innovation. Further, Margaret Konkol argues that the building blocks suggest Loy’s understanding of language as “kinetic, geometric, recombinant, and open to mutation” as they were to be attached by “small pieces of magnetic metal,” thus forming many different letters depending on spatial arrangement.

The appeal of these blocks, as envisioned by Loy, was partly in their visual appearance. In her letter to F.A.O. Schwarz, she explains they were to be “manufactured of attractive inexpensive plastics, or brightly lacquered cardboard,” and then “laid on the board of a contrasting color during the process of Alphabet Construction” (Konkol 11, emphasis added). Understanding the value of aesthetic detail, Loy sought to create a children’s toy that was both attractive and pedagogical, but also worthy of sustained attention. In her letter to the toy company, she notes: “A child’s attention wanders if each letter is introduced with the same preamble.”  Indeed, as unusual and avant-garde as Loy’s creative pursuits might have been, they were also always rooted in practical notions.