Tuesday, April 2, 2013

George Brown - Early American Tin Toys

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

George Brown
Early American Tin Toys

    I've been writing lately about new found companies that I had not known existed. AS it turns out, I found still more, and even in the USA. One of these was the George W. Brown & Company in  Forestville, Connecticut (USA). George Brown was a clockmaker who changed professions to become a toymaker. He was the one who introduced moving clockwork mechanisms to  tin toys in the USA in the 1850's.  I wasn't able to find too many of these moving toys, but I managed to find some very nice pull toys that were added to small-wheeled tin platforms. 

   The toys were made from tin-plated sheet metal. First they were carefully cut, then hammered into shape  on a mold (probably wood). After, the different parts would be held in place with clamps, and then soldered together.  Finally, the toys were hand painted and could also have stencilling also done with paint. 

    The company lasted from 1856-1880 or longer, as the "circa" dates seem to indicate toy dated going to the late 1880's-1890's. Surprisingly, not all of the toys seem to acquire high prices at auction, and as I mentioned there are not that many to be found.

The above book is very interesting in 2 ways. It's a sketchbook from George Brown himself. What makes the book interesting from a collectors point of view is that the diagrams are beautifully drawn in colour. More importantly, many of the actual toys that George Brown designed and made are in the book. IN this way, you can actually mttch them up the sketch with the "real" toy  authenticate a "real" George Brown toy. I'm unsure when the book was published, but as a reference guide, it wasn;t that expensive. If you go to Amazon, you can find them.

It's interesting to see how "rough" the toys were made in terms of the stencilling, which of course was painted in by hand. What eventually  caused the company to close was the introduction of lithography on metal at the beginning of the earl 1900's.  However, with such nicely-crafted toys, I don;t know why Geroge Brown didn't continue with the "new" technology?
One of the things that fascinates me about these toys is that they're a footprint of time on people and machinery, and items of the time. I always like to think about how people might have felt being  born in the mid 19th century, and living into the middle of the 20th century. True "horsepower" was one of the important modes of transportation then. Also, the wooden paddleboat was most important in the USA at the time. THousands and thousands of these steamship boats plied the large American rivers such as the Missouri, the Mississippi, the Hudson, and so forth.  Next to the train, river traffic via these boats was the key to opening up the USA and the West.

You absolutely have to look at this fire engine under larger magnification! This is one of the  rarer George Brown toys, and typifies the many characteristic of his designs. It also yielded the highest price of all the toys on this post.

The wheels are cast iron, there is painted stencilling,  hammered tin plate,  and a clockwork mechanism (below). However, I can see why this toy went for so high a price at auction.  I simply admire that arched gate or fence  at the front of the fire engine. As well, the small firemen are more like modern  day characters in an architectural drawing  rather than  a "typical-looking" model of a person!

Finally, there's the horse on the platform - a pull toy. One thing that I always like is "elegance with simplicity", and this particular exemplifies that. That's what I like in the early cast iron toys such as the Hubley Airflows, and that's what I like in the modern day "real" Porsche.  This toy reminds me of the copper weather vans that you see atop old buildings of that time, and still today. The simple gallop of the horse,  attached to a small-sized platform, with small-sized cast iron wheels, is just superb! And of course, those bright colours!

It doesn't get any better than this!

Thanks for dropping by,
and have a great part of the day,
wherever you may be.


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