Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Wyandotte Pre-War Doll Carriage

The local vintage toy collectors and dealers show up at many of the estate sales I attend.   Old toys are collectible.  They remind people of their own childhood, and a lot of those toys were built to last.

A good example of this is the small pressed metal doll carriage or buggy I found at a neighbor's yard sale last weekend.  

It's about 10 inches long from stem to stern, including the handle.  I balanced it on my postal scale and it registered a hefty 1.5 pounds.  The bottom of buggy shows that it was made, probably in the 1930s (long before my time!) by the All Metal Products Company of Wyandotte, Michigan.  

The history of All Metal Products Company, better known to collectors nowadays simply as "Wyandotte," reflects many of the changes in America during the early to mid-20th century.  Because of those changes, the company reinvented itself several times during its many years in business.  

Apparently All Metal Products started out in the early 1920s making parts for automobiles, then shifted its focus to using scrap metal from the auto industry to create toy pistols and rifles.  

The company's motto at the time was "Every Boy Wants a Pop Gun."  This must have been more than a slogan, because by 1929 All Metal/Wyandotte was the world's largest maker of toy guns.  

But in late 1929, the stock market crashed, and All Metal/Wyandotte reinvented itself again, branching out into more and different toy designs: doll buggies (like the one I found), games, musical toys, and a large range of cars, trucks and wagons.  Their slogan changed to "Wyandotte Toys Are Good and Safe."  Arthur Edwards, the president of All Metal Products, became mayor of the city of Wyandotte in 1932 and died in office later that year, but the company continued to grow under the direction of Edwards' son Charles.  

The company's toys, mass-produced on an assembly line (the technique borrowed from the auto industry), were a) inexpensive and b) virtually indestructible -- two requisites during the Great Depression.  The website FabTinToys continues exploring the company's history:

Their simply built, streamlined, art deco steel cars and trucks were unmistakable. Through the years they built heavier gauge steel cars, distinguished by their baked enamel finish, and wooden wheels, they were designed to withstand the rigors of almost any young child's endless playing, as evidenced by the condition of the many Wyandotte toys treasured by today's collectors. 

Tin cars produced by the company are more rare and very few exist today. Things were developing nicely for the company, and it continued to grow. In 1936, they added lithographed novelty toys. In 1937, they introduced spring-driven motors to propel some of their vehicles. This in turn led to a wider range of wind-up and lever-action novelty toys.

Then, with the advent of World War II, All Metal Toys/Wyandotte was forced to change its focus again.  

The US government needed ships, tanks, planes and weapons for war, and that required massive amounts of metal.  Any metal -- including metal for toys -- was rationed.  Citizens took part in scrap metal drives, to collect metal for recycling for the war effort, and it's safe to say that a lot of the metal toys of the 1930s were scrapped in the war effort in the 1940s.   The toys were literally "all metal" no longer; Wyandotte turned to creations of wood and die-cut cardboard.  The company aided the war effort by making clips for the M-1 rifle.  

After the war, the company reinvented itself again.  The owners moved the factory to Ohio and merged with a company that made toy trains.  All Metal/Wyandotte also made a very successful line of cap pistols in the early 1950s, including official Hopalong Cassidy pistols and holsters.  

But the world was changing again.  Production costs and salaries at the unionized factory were high, and the Korean War created a steel shortage.   All Metal Products Company filed for bankruptcy protection in 1956, and its assets were liquidated in 1957.

Even though the company is gone, their toys are still with us.  I imagine the little girl who originally owned the doll buggy I found at the yard sale, could never have imagined the many changes that would come during her lifetime.

Here's an article on Wyandotte from Toy Collector magazine:

The website FabTinToys has more on the history of Wyandotte/All Metal:

And blogger OldAntiqueToys has pictures of many wonderful Wyandotte metal cars:

Nichols Cap Guns has lots of pictures of the Hopalong Cassidy pistol sets: 

The National World War II Museum website explains more about the changes to life on the home front during the war:

The Wyandotte, MI website is here:

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