Saturday, March 9, 2013

Before There Were Trucks (Wilkins)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Before There Were Trucks

    I had seen these cast iron toys for the last 2 years,but never wrote a post about them. I even bid and won a large cast iron fire wagon with 6 horses on E-Bay, only to have the item arrive broken, and never collected a penny on insurance.  At that time, I was "nice" on E-Bay, and didn't want to file a complaint against the seller for extremely bad packaging.

   Before I get to talk about these beautiful toys, I have to mention an important thing. Many cast iron toys out there today are "fakes" or "reproductions", and you have to be very careful to know what is real from what is "not real".  I'm not an authority, so I can;t really help you there. However, as the motto goes "buyer beware". 

   The  Wilkins Toy Company as I just found out, was acquired by the Kingsbury Toy Company in 1894.  Mr James S.Wilkins originally had made wringers (washing)  from his company - the  Triumph Wringer Company. At the showroom, Mr. Wilkins had these fabulous small models that kids were fascinated by.  Being an astute businessman he then decided to get into the toy business. Returning to the Kingsbury Toy Company,  they eventually closed the toy business, but they are still in business today. I had written to them because their toys are great and wanted to know if they were still in business (Keen, New Hampshire, USA). They are a successful tool and die maker.

   The Wilkins toys were made mostly from cast iron, steel, and tin. The bodies of the wagons, men or women, and horses, were made from cast iron, while the  wheels might be made of steel.  fenders over the wheels were made of tin, and they usually receive the brunt of any damage that might be found on them 100 years later.  

   For today, I've just focussed on the horse and wagon together with the horse and coach toys. The toys , I assume,  are pull toys, that would be attached with a piece of cord, to the front of the toy, and pulled along the dirt road, or wooden sidewalks.

   I'm a big romantic at heart and like to sometimes put the toys that I write about in perspective, although this is the first time that I am doing this. If you think of the 1890's and slightly later, the motorized truck would not come about until about 10 years later. Electricity had been discovered earlier, but would not come into some use and produce light until the early 1900's. Europe had been fighting wars for hundreds of years, and the American Civil war had ended some 30 years earlier. I remember reading about the last Civil War vets dying in the 1950's. Refrigeration would not enter into the market on a big scale until the later 1910's. Most American cities were small, and connected by dirt roads. As well,most cities relied on the railroad for transportation.

   So when you consider all of the above that I just mentioned, the horse and cart or wagon was the main mode of  transportation and delivery at the time these toys had been originally produced. Ice was cut from rivers and lakes and stored in giant warehouses. The ice would then  be transported by horse and cart door-by-door, by the "iceman".The milk was delivered by a door-to-door milkman. Meat had to be eaten relatively fast, and foods did not have labels on them to tell you when to dispose of them. 

   For  the people and generation who lived through the period from the mid 1850's through to the next century, that surely must have been a real experience. I'm sure though, the common person did not experience most of the inventions at the time. THey were too busy just surviving.Wages were low, there was no health care, or rights for people, especially the minorities in the U.S.

   However, much as I ponder what those people at those times must have felt and experienced, I realize that I like many of the baby boomers are experiencing just that in this century (late 1940's-2000's).  I have seen marvels and inventions and discoveries that people in the last century could never have imagined.. Yet with everything that happens, most of us, including myself are too busy, or don't take the time to "stop and smell the roses".  For myself, in a "distant" sort of way,  toys let's me stop and think for a brief moment. I'm sure that sounds kind of "corny" to some, but to me it's sort of romantic. 

Thanks for dropping by,

and have a nice part of the day,
wherever you may be.

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