A few years ago at one -room school conference I was asked if I knew if anyone was making reproduction Thaumatropes. At that time I was unaware of any, but now I have found a source, so I’m sharing it.
Although its producer, Historical Folk Toys, only sells directly in wholesale amounts, they have a series of old-fashioned games and toys. From their homepage you can find toys divided by time period.
The Thaumatrope works on the same general principle as the buzz saw game people typically make with buttons, but with an added twist. The game uses the persistence of vision. On one side of the disk is half of an image, for example for the one pictured on the left, one side shows an empty cage. The other half is on the other side, in this example a parrot. When spun like a buzz saw the two images join in your mind and you see one image on both sides of a parrot in a cage. This persistence of vision is one of the things that makes it possible for us to see movement in movies which are basically a series of still images.
As the information included explains, “Thauma is Greek for magic or a wonder, and trop means something that turns; thus, the names Wonder Turner, Magic Turner, and Turning Marvel are also names used for this toy.” They also reference the French term Trompe-l’oeil which means “trick of the eye”, but that’s a more general term used for other visual tricks as well, for example wall murals that are painted to look like windows or examples of forced perspective.
Learn more about the history of this device and how to make one here:
UPDATE 2014: I just checked and the links were still good. Really the only thing I have to add is that you can actually create your own Thaumatropes. All you have to do is come up with an image that can easily be divided into two and draw one half on each side of a stiff paper or cardboard disc.
Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation.Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. She is currently acting President of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.