Fostering the next generation of New England craftsmen
Thos. Moser and the North Bennet Street School join forces to create a timeless collectible for a good cause.
On a late-fall day in Boston, students and faculty of North Bennet Street School (NBSS) work in a sun-filled woodshop. The scent of freshly chiseled and shaved cherry wood is warm and invigorating. The NBSS craftspeople are using recycled wood donated by our workshop in Auburn, Maine, to make timeless collectibles just in time for the holidays. The full value of every sale will benefit Toys for Tots, the U.S. Marine-run charity that give Christmas gifts to children whose parents cannot afford them.
Our partnership with North Bennet Street School began based on a long-standing mutual admiration. Tom Moser has always believed it is our responsibility to educate the next generation of woodworkers, and he would often visit the school from the nearby Thos. Moser Showroom. Seeking new ways to support the school’s activities, we reached out to NBSS to discuss forming a partnership and found common ground in Toys for Tots. The Thos. Moser Showroom had hosted a Toys for Tots community toy drive for a decade, and the school, which counts many veterans among its students, had been active with the organization for years
From the start, the project gave NBSS students, alumni, and faculty the opportunity to work together on the same plane, ideas flowing freely from one generation to the next. They all agreed the collectibles should be inspired by a toy, but where should they find inspiration? They found the answer in one of the earliest programs at the school, woodworking classes for children.
Established in 1881, North Bennet Street School originally offered immigrants vocational training to help them find employment in their new homeland. The woodworking program instructed young, often poor children, and toy-making was central to the curriculum. In making toys, the children not only learned vital woodworking skills, but they could also take the toys home with them.
Pouring over historical documents from the program, NBSS faculty discovered an adorable photo of toy rockers that looked like rabbits, as well as language that described the class participants as “little folks.” NBSS selected the design as the basis for the collectible and naming it was simple: the “Little Folks” Rocker.
The design, at least 100 years old, was ingenious. The “Little Folks” Rockers actually rocked or walked when tapped on the head without any winding or gears. In fact, unless you kept a good eye on the little wooden rabbits, they would keep walking right off the side of a slightly inclined workbench. Beyond its ingenuity, the collectible celebrated the long line of New England woodworkers who had come before us as well as pay them the deepest honor in woodworking tradition: passing their hard-won knowledge and skill onto the next generation.
Through this collaboration based on mutual respect and admiration, Thos. Moser and North Bennet Street School released the 2018 prototype of the “Little Folks” Rockers for the Toys for Tots fundraiser just in time for the holidays. Only 10 were produced and they quickly sold. The 2019 editions will feature up to 20 “Little Folks” Rockers. Each will be unique, bearing the original aesthetic of its maker, and, in a reflection of our practice of signing every Thos. Moser piece of furniture we create, each will also come with a card hand-signed by the NBSS Craftsperson who made it.
If you live in the Boston area, we invite you to join us in the showroom on December 5th, 2019 from 5 pm – 7 pm for our 12th annual Toys for Tots holiday gathering. We have partnered with the North Bennet Street School to offer handcrafted wooden toys available for purchase with all proceeds donated to Toys for Tots. Please bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate to the Marine Toys for Tots.