State Library of South Australia logo To be a child
SA Memory. South Australia past and present, for the future

Kaleidoscopic colour top
Title : Kaleidoscopic colour top Kaleidoscopic colour top View More Images
Add To My SA Memory
Format : Toy
Dimensions : 160mm
Contributor : State Library of South Australia
Catalogue record
The State Library of South Australia is keen to find out more about SA Memory items. We encourage you to contact the Library if you have additional information about any of these items.
Copyright : Reproduction rights are owned by State Library of South Australia. This image may be printed or saved for research or study. Use for any other purpose requires permission from the State Library of South Australia. To request approval, complete the Permission to publish form.
Description :

The kaleidoscopic colour top consists of a spoked metal top, and a number of black paper discs and assorted multi-coloured and patterned paper discs. It was invented by John Gorham in the 1850s and can be used to demonstrate the blending of primary colours to create secondary colours. The appearance of the spinning discs is similar to that in a kaleidoscope, hence the name.

By using one of the black perforated discs dropped over the colour disc while spinning further colours and patterns can be seen. If the black disc is spun at a slower rate than the coloured discs a different series of patterns are created. The speed of the black disc can de reduced by attaching a thread to the circumference: this is sufficient to retard the motion and to make some vibrations which add to the colour effects.

In an age when scientific toys were beginning to be developed, this toy may have been used as much by adults as by children.

Further reading :

King, Constance Eileen. The encyclopedia of toys, Adelaide: Rigby, 1978

Opie, Iona. The treasures of childhood: books, toys and games from the Opie collection, London: Pavilion, 1989

Internet links :

Journal of cell science: Select article by John Gorham Multiplied Figures by Rotation: The Kaleidoscopic Colour-top

Exhibitions and events :



About SA Memory

Explore SA Memory

SA Memory Themes


My SA Memory


What's on