Wind-up toys and figures were built in Europe as early as the 1600s. Powered by clock mechanisms, these first wind-up toys were intricately made from wax or porcelain and were intended more for the amusement of wealthy adults than for children [source: Collectors Weekly].
By the late 1800s, less elaborate versions for kids appeared on the scene, and they came in almost every imaginable shape and size. Made of tin, composition or cardboard, these simple mechanical toys took the form of farm animals, human figures, carnival rides, horse-drawn carriages, and, a bit later, cars, trucks and airplanes.
Once wound, these toys repeated a single task, such as climbing a ladder, riding a bike or pushing a wheelbarrow. One wind-up musical merry-go-round that sold for 79 cents in the 1920s carried riders around and around on little carousel horses and pigs.