John Deere thresher
For years, children and adults alike wrote letters to the Vindex Toy Company, thanking them for the wonderful cast iron toys they made, ordering other ones, or asking if they wouldn't please manufacture a Rumely Oil Pull, or maybe a Woods Brothers Thresher.
Only problem is, the Vindex Toy Company never existed.
'Actually,' says Harold D. Neff in a letter to the Boone Co. Historical Society, Belvidere, Ill., 'There never was a Vindex Toy Company, but a line of cast iron toys and novelties, including some bank numbers, manufactured by National Sewing Machine Co.,' of Belvidere, Ill.
Like many other toys - Wilkins and Kingsbury just to name two - beloved Vindex toys were merely an afterthought to a company doing well selling other products: in this case, sewing machines (making 500 Family Sewing Machines daily) and washing machines (250 per day). Then came 1930, the Great Depression, plunging prices, and badly depressed sales.
Neff, who headed up the Vindex toy division of National Sewing Machine Company throughout its existence, and worked at the company from 1916-1951, says 'We wanted to be able to retain as many of our employees as was possible, and began to produce other lines of goods that would give work to our people.' Those goods included a complete line of Home Work Shop Machinery (lathes, band saws, jig saws, saw tables, and line shaft assemblies), and cast iron toys.
'The line was quite complete,' Neff says. 'We negotiated with Oldsmobile and Pontiac to copy their line of cars in miniature, as well as Harley Davidson Motor cycles and side cars. Also, we made a power shovel in miniature, and a complete line of John Deere farm machinery.'
The line of cast iron toys needed a name, of course, and it is no mystery how it came about, Neff says. 'We were making a line of our sewing machines under the brand name Vindex, a somewhat unusual name, so when the time came to name the line of toys and novelties we decided to use the brand 'Vindex'.'
Vindex toys covered a wider field than cars, motorcycles, and farm toys, however: horse-drawn wagons, book-ends, table lamps, dog door stops, and dog and owl banks. 'We made several hundred thousand Bull Dog Door Stops (#151),' Neff writes, 'which were sold at $1 each to the trade.
'We also had a Setter Dog Door Stop (called 'Pal', #155), as well as a Scottie Dog Door Stop (Scottie Twin, #157) that sold in large quantities.'
Fifty people were employed to produce the line. One was Wade Leaich, 80, of Belvidere, perhaps the last surviving worker from the Vindex line.
'Everybody else who worked there was much older than I was. I had to leave high school at the end of my sophomore year,' he says, 'because my parents couldn't afford books or clothes for school. My dad was unemployed.'
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