Arcade Toys

Arcade toys enthralled generations of farm children

| September 2000

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.