Have you ever accidentally left something behind on a vacation or field trip? That might explain how a small, red, plastic Gumby ended up in the upper layers of the midden. Created by Art Clokey, the lovable clay figure Gumby first appeared in 1957 in his own animated television series. The original show lasted until 1968, but many spin-offs and revivals have occurred since then. Even with the many variations of the TV show, Gumby was never red, he was always green—Clokey’s favorite color. As with many popular TV shows and movies, merchandising spread the material culture of Gumby into homes around the world. The merchandising was so successful that objects featuring Gumby and his friends were sold long after the show was cancelled. Figurines were manufactured for gumball vending machines in many different colors; ours is one of the red gumball Gumbies.
These vending machine toys are an example of the long history of children at Mount Vernon. George and Martha Washington were always generous in inviting children into their home. They made room for Fanny, Martha Washington’s niece, and for Martha’s grandchildren, Washy and Nelly. Many other children stayed with them for shorter periods of time. Today, children visit Mount Vernon to see where George and Martha Washington lived. These young visitors have left many interesting items, like red Gumby, which we can use to interpret their cultural history.