In 1915, Eleanor P. Vance and Charlotte L. Yale opened Tryon Toymakers Shop in Tryon. They had previously worked at the Biltmore Estate woodcarving and weaving, becoming the founders of the craft revival operation Biltmore Industries.
Tryon Toymakers built made-to-order furniture, and following the craft revival model of teaching local residents to make craft items for sale, Vance and Yale taught local children to make toys. Boys between the ages of 11 and 15 were trained to make spinning tops, animal figures, doll furniture, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and other fairy tale characters, and Noah’s Arks. The Tryon Toymakers catalog advertised the products as made by local residents, with proceeds from toy sales being of economic benefit to the makers.
First ladies Grace Coolidge, Lou Hoover, and Eleanor Roosevelt all visited Tryon Toys. The company became a member of the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild in 1932. Charlotte Yale and Eleanor Vance retired in the 1930s, and finally sold the operation in 1949. Tryon Toys survived under different ownership until the 1990s.
Click on the audio link to hear a Living Traditions Moment about Tryon Toymakers.