Alternative Name(s): Peg Top

In 1962-63, during sabbatical leave, American folklorist Dr Dorothy Howard undertook research in Tonala, a pottery village in Mexico. She had for many years been keen to study a single child intensively in the context of his family and community, and collect play materials from the local community. She choose to study Pedro Munoz, who was 12 years old in 1962. She published a book based her research, Pedro of Tonalá, in 1989. In later years she studied a girl from ages two to four in Lincoln, Nebraska (1967-1969), and in 1977 published a detailed account of her own childhood in Dorothy's World: Childhood in Sabine Bottom, 1902-1910.

This object forms part of the Dorothy Howard Collection, contained within the Australian Children's Folklore Collection (ACFC). The ACFC is unique in Australia, documenting contemporary children's folklore across Australia and in other countries reaching back to the 1870s. The Collection has a strong component of research material relating to Victoria.

Physical Description

Large wooden spinning top with a conical shaped body and rounded top with a wooden knob at centre top. Top has two shallow grooves cut into the body and a metal screw with the head taken off at the point. The wood is not stained or varnished.


Top-spinning is an ancient activity. Tops dated at 1200-1400BC were excavated in Egypt, and they are often mentioned in classical literature. They are found throughout the world and used by adults and children, in rituals as well as for games of skill. There are many different kinds of tops, and the way they are used depends on their size and shape. This top is known in Mexico as 'Trompo'. In Australia it is called a peg top, or what is sometimes referred to as a 'boy's' top because peg tops were mostly used by boys. Girls usually used whipping tops. The top is spun by winding string around the body, and holding the end of the string while the top is thrown down. The string is jerked to start the top spinning. Australian children no longer use peg tops in the playground, except in the context of historical activities.

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