Fine Farm Toys: Arcade Threshers

Colorful threshers made by Arcade Manufacturing Co. were popular farm toys.

| July 2005

When the "Weekender" section of the Freeport (Ill.) Journal-Standard newspaper reported the history of its hometown Arcade Manufacturing Co. in 1982, the writer did not mention Arcade threshers. "Some of the toy favorites," the article noted, "were toy tractors, plows, buses, automobiles, trucks …" but nary a word about the threshers. It was an unfortunate omission, because anyone who loves cast iron farm toys has a warm spot in his or her heart for Arcade's series of five threshers.

The company started making farm toys in 1922, when it debuted its Fordson tractor. Other farm toys followed, but it wasn't until 1925 that Arcade started making threshers. That year one of the company's full-page advertisements showed a few of its bestsellers - the Yellow Cab, Buick Coupe and McCormick-Deering Weber Wagon, as well as front and back views of the "sturdily made … and very realistic in appearance … toy McCormick-Deering thresher." According to the ad, the new gray-with-red-trim toy "includes many appealing toy features. The feeder may be raised or folded back when not in use. The stacker, or blower, can be turned to any angle and lengthened or shortened as desired. The grain conveyor is movable and the various pulleys revolve." This thresher measured 12 inches long, 3 3/4 inches wide, and 4 1/2 inches high. With the feeder extended, the toy was 18 inches long.

The 1925 catalog information, as might be suspected, speaks very highly of this new toy: "To see this toy is to appreciate the remarkable ingenuity and skill required in its design. Sturdily made of cast iron, and finished in gray, trimmed in red. Wheels are finished in an attractive cream color …," although they actually look more yellow in the colored page of the catalog.

A case of a dozen threshers weighed 51 pounds, net 43 pounds, and measured 22 1/4 by 16 1/2 by 10 1/2 inches. The gray McCormick-Deering thresher is roughly 1/16-scale.

Ray Lacktorin, Stillwater, Minn., who has collected cast iron farm toys for many years, says the Arcade threshers are some of his favorites. "Arcade made wonderful McCormick-Deering farm toys," he recalls. "All their threshers, all of their tractors, they're great. Arcade really copied the real thing well." He notes that the feeder would break off if the toy was dropped, so toy owners had to be careful.

Ray liked the Arcade toys so well that when he built a new house in 1966, he had a ledge built in his basement where he displays Arcade toys he bought at auction, including the Arcade McCormick-Deering thresher, which he bought for $26, a price friends then thought was ridiculous. Today this toy can sell in the $500 range.