Brief histories of some important toy companies.
This page under constant revision as time permits.
I have collected composition toy soldiers for several years. My introduction to them was when a man brought a cookie tin into my shop that he'd found in his Grandmothers attic. It had remained undisturbed since 1946 when she brought it to the US as an immigrant after the war. We opened it and found within a DJ armband, a youth copy of Mein Kampf, and an assortment of toy soldiers. Quite the time capsule!
As time passed I have added tinplate German military toys, Marx Army trains, and Britains toy soldiers to my collection.
The history of the great toy companies of Europe and the USA is a look into the world history of warfare, manufacturing and economy as well.
Auburn Rubber began producing figures and vehicles in 1935 and went out of business with the onset of WWII as it turned to wartime production of boot soles and rubber gaskets. They went back into the toy business in with rubber toys in 1952, but soon turned to vinyl plastic, they closed their doors in 1969.
Arcade Mfg. Co. was founded as the Novelty Iron Works in 1868 but in 1885 they reorganized as the Arcade Manufacturing Company. Their first toy was a miniature coffee mill and animal banks followed. In 1921, sales manager Isaac P. Gassman approached the president of Yellow Cab Company and they agreed that Arcade would make a miniature copy of the well-known Yellow Cab. This became their first successful toy and built the company’s reputation. In 1946 Arcade was purchased by Rockwell Manufacturing Company of Buffalo, NY and they ceased operations in 1953.
Arnold Toy Co. was founded in 1906 as Karl Arnold GmbH & Co KG, Nuremberg Germany. Karl Arnold developed the cradle-flints which sprays sparks and added a dynamic looks to his guns. Closing with WWI, production resumed after the war and the company was very successful with low-cost operating toys and sheet metal ships. Arnold’s son took over in 1935 and production continued to grow. In WWII all three Nuremberg factories were destroyed, only the operation in Mühlhausen remained. Production resumed in late 1945 and their Jeep, the "Mac 700" motorcycle and the crank remote control were developed. The company became hugely successful in 1960 when they began the production of 9mm N Gauge electric railways and soon production was entirely in railway cars, track and accessories. In 1997, the company was taken over by Rivarossi.
Barclay Manufacturing Company of New Jersey. made toys that, as with Manoil, were commonly purchased at five and dime stores and collectors refer to them as "Dimestore soldiers". Barclay Mfg formed about 1922 and was named from Barclay Street in Hoboken, NJ. In its heyday, Barclay was the largest toy soldier manufacturer in the United States. Noted for it’s art deco vehicles as well as its toys, the company made a variety of toys in slush cast lead. After WWII, Barclay's headquarters were relocated to Union City, New Jersey where it continued to manufacture in metal with figures going through some noticeable changes. The helmets on their soldiers changed to the M1 style and in 1951 they eliminated the bases on their soldiers creating what collectors have nicknamed 'podfoots' due to the shape. Painted in military green, there are scarcer "enemy" soldiers in red uniforms as well. In the 1960’s, concerns over lead poisoning removed lead toys from the shelves of many retailers. That combined with a change in the interest of youth to Mattel and other styles of toys was the end for the dimestores. Barclay closed in 1971.
Bing produced tin toys beginning in 1880 when brothers Adolf & Ignaz Bing set up shop for toys in Nuremberg, Germany. By 1900, Bing was the largest of the German toy companies. The "Nuremberg Style" of manufacturing toys on stamped out steel sheets with lithographed designs that were then formed and assembled using tabs & slots, was perfected by Bing and was widely used by other makers. World War I forced Bing out of the export market and in 1916 Ives and A. C. Gilbert Company formed the Toy Manufacturers Association and lobbied to protect the U.S. toy manufacturing industry. The great German toy makers never really recovered. By the late 1920’s, Bing was in financial trouble and with the rise of Adolf Hitler the Jewish Bing family fled to England. In 1933 Bing closed it’s doors with much of its material acquired by Karl Bub.
Bing items can be identified and dated by its trademark. Items bearing the letters "GBN" for "Gebrüder Bing Nürnberg" (Brothers Bing Nuremberg) in a diamond date before 1923, while items bearing a sideways "B" next to a "W" (for "Bing Works") date from 1924 to 1932.
Comet / Authenticast More on this company here.
And more here.
Dayton Toys Schieble toy and Novelty Company founded in 1909 in Dayton, Ohio and other manufactures lead a move to create a new toy making hub in Dayton at the turn of the century. With toys characterized by their large size, made in pressed steel tinplate with friction drive known as “hill climbers”; it is often difficult to know which company produced which toy. The Dayton toy boom was in decline by the depression. I recommend this book!
DRGM is not a maker mark or a German patent. It was a way for inventors to register a product’s design or function within the German states. From 1891 to 1952, products manufactured in Germany might have been stamped with this D.R.G.M. designation. The manufacturer could pay the high patent fees that Germany charged or instead copyright register their product’s intended way of use, or design.
William Feix of Brooklyn, NY circa 1903-1928. Founded by the Austria immigrant and brought a European influence to the US toy soldier market. Not widely appreciated in my opinion, his figures are some of the best around! He offered both individual figures and attractive boxed sets with the mounted figures some of the most attractive to be found.
Gama is the acronym for Georg Adam Mangold, who started the company in Fürth, Germany in 1882 making tinplate mechanical toys. Production continued through World War II, the Occupation era and into the late 1950s with a wide range of lithographed tinplate.
In the 1930s, the rise of militarism in Germany saw a resurgence in production of toy tanks. These were offered in various sizes from 3.5 to 7 inches in length. The destruction of World War II disrupted production as with other German makers such as Märklin and Schuco. Post War production resumed quickly and these toys are marked Made in US Zone Germany. In the 1960’s Gama moved to plastic injection and diecast toys. More on Gama tanks here...
Gescha Toys Germany was established in 1923 and toys marked 'Gescha' date from the 1930s. (German products in the pre to post WWI era were often marked Ges. Gesch. (gesetzlich geschützt) which meant "trademark registered" in German. Confusion sometimes arises between the two markings.) Gescha’s early products were tin wind-up toys that were very creative. As with most German industries, WWII halted business. Gescha resumed production of tin toys in the late 1940s with a variety of tin and stamped toys. By the 50’s focus was on vehicles and many company name changes followed.
Follow this link to view a 1935-36 catalogue on line!
Follow this link to view a 1939-40 catalogue on line!
Ives was a master manufacturer of clockwork toys, electric trains, erector sets, mechanical boats, and railway accessories. They began in the pre-Civil War era and at one time made Federal military buttons! Eventually toys added to the line and their first clockwork locomotive was developed in the early 1870s. Ives production moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut and innovations such as a whistling train locomotive moved Ives into the role of a leader in the toy industry. Ives hot toys and clockwork trains were selling very well in Europe as well. In the 1890s Ives had added a line of cast iron toys and with the death of the Ives founder and the grandson joining the company, three generations now created toys. Ives continued to build clockwork trains into the early 1900’s as many homes were still without electricity. Then Ives created a track which could handle both clockwork and electrical locomotives! In 1910 Ives began production of electrical trains on a full scale basis and quickly out grew American Flyer and Lionel. Marketing to the children and parents was a major part of Ives success. Ives construction toys began to be produced in 1913. 1917 was an important year as the company halted production of erector sets and began marketing clockwork boats believing them to be a way to beat slow summertime train sales. The toy boats were somewhat of a marketing failure as they did not meet the expectations of other makers. Train sales began to decline as well and as the ‘toy train wars’ of the 1920’s raged, Ives was losing. While Ives trains were perhaps more realistic and high quality they were more expensive and the Depression loomed. The Ives firm went bankrupt in 1928 and was bought out by Lionel and American Flyer.
Jones - Metal Arts Co. started producing it's Metal Art 3 inch figures around 1929 and ceased production around 1931. This would account for the very limited numbers of figures found today. These figures are very rare and some of the most sought after in the Dimestore Hobby.
J.Chein & Co.was founded by Julius Chein, located in Harrison, New Jersey and began producing tin toys in 1903. The company produced a wide variety of lithographed metal vehicles and mechanical toys, with a few Military toys.
Keystone Wood Toys Inc. of Boston, MA was founded in 1922 and produced a wide range of products including movie projectors, wooden ships, pressed steel toy trucks & buildings, and pedal cars. By 1925, Keystone steel trucks were released in conjunction with the Packard Motor Company, and based upon their designs. Keystone’s ‘exploding’ military toys are a signature toy.
Lincoln Logs started producing figures in 1928 and for all practical purposes ceased production of its lead figures at the beginning of WW2, after the war, they did produce a small number of painted figures before finally switching to plastic.
Follow this link to view a 1938-39 catalogue on line!
Manoil Manufacturing Co. began production in 1934 and closed its doors in 1959. Located in NY, they produced hollow cast slush mold ‘dimestore’ soldiers, vehicles and more and were the major competitor to Barclay. Maurice Manoil (1896-1974) and his brother Jack (1902-1955) produced some the most popular American toy soldiers and vehicles.
Marklin history begins in 1859 when Theodor Friedrich Wilhelm Märklin started producing accessories made of tinplate for dolls' houses in the town of Göppingen in the South German state, "Kingdom of Württemberg". After his death his sons Eugen and Karl carried on the tradition with another partner, Emil Friz. The name became "Gebr. Märklin & Co.". Their toys became more and more technically advanced and success came in 1891 with a railway-system with clockwork locomotives. In 1907 with a new partner the company renamed itself as "Gebr.Märklin & Cie". In 1912 Märklin was the distributor for Meccano on the European continent. Between 1911-1913 Märklin made motors for Meccano and Hornby. During the World War Märklin only sold stock parts, because they produced war material in Göppingen.
From 1919, Märklin produced metal construction sets and these became as much a trademark items as their trains.
The Sun Rubber Company, located in Ohio, manufactured rubber toys from the mid 1930’s through the early 50’s. They began with primarily civilian vehicle toys and prior to WWII would paint some in military colors. Turning to defense production during the war years, they began producing military vehicles after WWII.
Sutcliffe toys England
TIMPO toy soldiers was an English toy company established in 1938 by Sally Gawrylovitz, a Jewish refugee from Germany. The company manufactured various toys out of wood, bakelite and composition until the end of World War II. Following the war, Timpo made excellent quality hollowcast lead soldiers until 1954 when they began producing in plastic. The firm closed in 1978.
Tipp & Co. / Tippco Founded in 1912 and named after an early director/employee named Miss Tipp. Tippco’s owner, Phillip Ullman was of Jewish descent and was forced to flee Germany in 1933. He went to England, where he founded Mettoy. He eventually returned to Germany to recover his company after the war. Tipp’s military vehicles are among the best of the clockwork tin toys produced in the pre-War / Wartime era and competed with the toys of Lineol and Elastolin. Some of Tippco’s better known pieces are it’s tanks and Hitler’s Mercedes the Fuhrerwagen.
The Tootsietoy / Dowst line includes a wide variety of vehicles, doll furniture and more. Dowst and Co. started in 1876 in the publishing and manufacturing. The name Tootsietoy was adopted in the early 1920's. Theodore Dowst, who joined the firm in 1906, is generally seen as the guiding force behind the growth of toy production at Dowst Brothers. He remained with the company even after its purchase by Nathan Shure in 1926 and stayed until 1945. For most collectors, the toys of the Ted Dowst period are the most noteworthy.
Tri-ang / Lines Bros Ltd was a British toy manufacturer of early the 20th century. They formed soon after WWI by three brothers and used 3 lines making a triangle - hence Tri-ang as a logo. Lines Bros Ltd at one time claimed to be the largest toy maker in the world. There were several companies selling Tri-ang under their own brand names (ATT, Hornby, Meccano and Dinky brands). At the start of the Second World War, production turned to the Sten Mk III submachine gun. Manufacture of toys resumed shortly after the war ended. In 1971 Lines Bros. Ltd called in the Official Receiver.
William Feix Toy Soldiers was located in Brooklyn, New York from 1903 to 1928. Feix, an Austrian immigrant, helped bring the European tradition of toy soldiers to America. First appearing around 1903 in Playthings Magazine, Feix had an early influence on the American toy soldier market, which can still be seen today. Feix produced and sold individual figures and very attractive boxed sets.
Wolverine Supply & Mfg. Co. was founded by Benjamin Bain in 1903 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with an office in New York. Wolverine specialized in tin lithograph and pressed steel mechanical toys and games of a heavier and many think better quality than you will find with contemporary toy makers such as Chein and Marx.