The hobby horse – essentially a carved horse head on a stick with wheels – is one of the oldest carved toys. The woodcut image above is from 1542. The poem ‘Ride a Cock Horse’ is believed to date from the 17th century; William Wallace Denslow’s illustration of the poem, below, is from the 1901 edition of ‘Mother Goose.’
The first bicycles, from around 1818, with rider astride using his feet to push on the ground, and without steering, used the same name.
I’m not sure of the exact age of the hobby horse toy featured here, but I particularly like its elaborate wooden hubs and steel-banded rims, which are reminiscent of the first pedalled bicycle of 1869, the velocipede. My research suggests that most hobby horses toys of the Victorian era had very small wheels, while those of the 1930s were metal. French examples had hand-carved horse head tops. The printed top of this American example suggests mass-production. Nevertheless, it is an elegantly made toy.
1920s Rolling Toy Hobby Horse