Arcade toys enthralled generations of farm children
Arcade's McCormick-Deering tractor, shown in a 1925 catalog.
They look real. Not only was that the motto of the Arcade Manufacturing Co., Freeport, Ill., maker of Arcade toys, but it was true.
Arcade toys looked real, which endeared them to farm children used to making their own ramshackle homemade tractors out of jar lids and pipe cleaners, and plows out of old spoons.
Ray Lacktorin of Stillwater, Minn., an avid collector of cast iron Arcade toys, says the company made wonderful McCormick-Deering farm toys.
"All of their threshers, all of their tractors – the Farmall M, the A, the WC Allis, even down to some of the smaller Fordsons: they're great. Arcade really copied the real thing well."
He adds that one of the reasons many cast iron companies didn't make "nice" farm toys is because toy making was a sideline for them. They usually made items like manifold blocks for real tractors or cars, and toys on contract for another company, "and they were paid by the ton rather than the piece, so what was important wasn't how well the toys were made, but how many tons of cast iron they used in making the toys."
Arcade Manufacturing Company, too, started out making other items, "Light hardware and house furnishing specialties," as their first catalog, (in 1902), showed. For several years, the company manufactured its house furnishings, and the occasional toy, until the turning point in 1921.
That year, Arcade reached an agreement to make its first toy automobile, the Arcade Yellow Cab.
"Mr. Isaac P. Gassman, then secretary and sales manager, went to Chicago to meet with the president of Yellow Cab Co.," says Al Aune in his book Arcade Toys. The president of Yellow Cab Co. happened to know Gassman.
The importance of Arcade manufacturing the Yellow Cab was two-fold: First, it confronted headon the popular wisdom that Americans would not pay more than a dollar for a toy (the then-accepted high point); and second, it set the stage for the production of Arcade farm toys, which cost more than a dollar each.
Shortly after production of the Yellow Cab, Arcade followed with its first farm tractor, the toy Fordson Model F.
Is It Or Isn't It?
As the Fordson toys wended their way to American children, so did a curious question. As Al Aune writes, "Is that really Henry Ford driving the tractor? Are the rumors really true?" No one has ever been sure, but the fact that the question was even asked shows how realistic Arcade toys were for their era. The new toys were such an immediate success that Arcade was forced to add another department to its company, the "Yellow Cab Department," to take care of correspondence and business.
Page: 1 | 2
| Next >>