Saturday, November 15, 2014

Revisiting The Metalcraft Company

Saturday, November 15, 2015,
Sunny skies and very cold

  I was looking for the latest toys up for auction on Liveauctioneers, a favourite "haunt" (place) of mine for fining great selections of antique and old toys to write about.  I came across some fine Metalcraft  toys being offered now, but decided to go into  Liveauctioneers archives (past auctions). From there, I decided to see how I could write up a post about Metalcraft, and decided to see if I could find their early to later toys, and see if there was a change,and find I did.

A Brief History of the Metalcraft Corporation

I discovered an excellent toy history resource right on ebay by the name of Fabtintoys. 
The owner is Mr. Harmjam Heeling, and I've written about him about a year ago.

   Metalcraft Corp., St Louis, Missouri, 1920 - 1938. Metalcraft produced playground equipment (such as teeter-totters) and pressed-steel trucks and acquired the rights for producing the pressed-steel airplane of Lindburgh's "Spirit of St. Louis". The company made millions of toy truck premiums known as "Business Leaders". 
   George R. Ericson was the owner of the Metalcraft Corporation during the Great Depression and this company, like so many others in the world at that time, did not make it through the depression, shutting its doors for the last time in 1938.*
Description courtesy of Mr. Harmjan Heeling,owner of Fabtintoys*

 I an writing based on my own educated experience about these toy, as there were very few dates that identified the time of manufacture of these toys. Also some of the dates appear late for toys that appear to be an older style of toy. Of course, with only 3 1/3 years, I could be wrong, so anyone having catalogues, old Metalcraft toys with data are free to send me corrections. 

The Early Years
I'm assuming that these toys below are the earlier (older) versions when the company started in the 1920's. The design, features and craftsmanship are very basic and simple compared with the later toys, manufactured in the 1930's.

First of all, there are no battery-operated electric lights. The grilles are not nickel-plated, the bodies are quite simple in terms of their design and the number of bends made to the cabs and truck body. Also the wheels (tires) are pressed metal.

The earlier toys did not have any logos on the doses of the trucks. I'm making another assumption that decals came later on.  However the toy above and below are still quite simple. The boom on the wrecker below, originally had a crank, a cord, and a hook.

I like how these trucks were called "wreckers" at the time. Since there were few good roads, and fewer if any numbers of safety features built into the trucks or even roads for that matter, accidents inevitably involved towing the "wreck", rather than the damaged truck or car.

The Middle Years
The middle years illustrate a move forward in the features and design of the toys. As I mentioned earlier, I am basically creating "educated guesses" based only thinking,instead of on objective facts. So I might be entirely wrong here.

The "Forbes Coffee" Machinery Hauler below could be from the early years or perhaps the middle years.The actual truck body design is "early", and the wheels are steel. Also the writing on the side appears stencilled rather than a more "sophisticated" decal. However the fine design of the flatbed with the wince (winder) just behind the cab, the small hand truck, and the  three oil cans leads me to believe this would have been offered later. My assumption figures that it was best to start simple and then later add more fetters and items as the company expanded with more sales.

These are middle years toys from the Metalcraft Company. The body is still similar to the earlier design,but rubber tires have replaced the pressed steel variety. 

Definitely a middle years toy. The cab is still old-style from an earlier era, but the flatbed rear body is more sophisticated that the earlier version.There are steel bars on each side, and the truck cakes with rubber tires, and spare tires loaded on the back.

Definitely middle years!

I'm unsure if the "Forbes Coffee" truck in the early years is missing that rear platform for lowering the heavy items on the flatbed. In the model below there in one.   The truck design is old, but the truck has the rubber tires, and front headlights operated by batteries. I'm assuming that the lever on the right passenger side is an off/on switch.

Definitely a middle years toy. The features are similar to the truck above (lights, on/off switch, and rubber tires. This  time we see the introduction of writing that is definitely decal in design, which is more sophisticated that  simple stencilling.

The Later Years

I decided to use the word "later" than "final" - it's easier on us toy aficionados.

It's sad that this company didn't survive to be able to to continue after WWII. When you look at the leap forward in the features and design of Metalcraft's line of toys,  they most certainly had great toy designers and engineers to have modernized into the 1930's. The "streamlined" toys as Metalcraft called  them, but auctioneers title "Art Deco" appear to be more desirable than the earlier toys.

Simply Beautiful!

These definitely are the later years, The streamlined design has wonderful smoother curves that contrast with the straight and harder lines of the truck . There are rubber tires, electric lights, and sophisticated decals on the sides. 

The cost of changing toy design could have been costly. New dies had to be designed and made that would form the steel into the wonderful shapes seen here. The dies would have been fitted into the presses that I'm sure were still capable of pressing the  new shapes.

We can see a "carryover" of the older stake bed into the new truck body and cab.  The logo on the sides of the stake truck are old design, but the cab is definitely later.

Below is the sam cab body as the Esso truck above.  It was a smart move to license the Coca-Cola name to appear on the trucks. I especially like the wording on the back "Every Bottle Sterilized".
I remember how as kids, we had to bring the bottles back to the  grocery store for a refund. I think bottles at the time (late 1950's) were 2 cents a bottle.  Now here in Quebec,( Not in Ontario) we have to return the aluminum cans for 5 cents/can refund. It's more of an environmental concern.With this "reward",the streets of Montreal for the most part are clean. Some poorer people collect  discarded cans from the street as well as from recycle bins, and bring them to those automatic crushing/recycling machines for extra money.

Definitely Later Design!
Definitely Beautiful!

I've seen this particular Metalcraft toy either restored or recreated as a modern reproduction.
Since the original company closed down in 1938, if the name or the company was never purchased, 
companies and  individuals are free to redeign the toy, and sell it.

As the old expression goes: "Copying is the best form of flattery".

For myself, it's continuing to have these toys have a second life for younger people and collectors to appreciate is what old and antique toys are all about.

Thanks for dropping by, and as always
have a great part of the day or night,
wherever you may be,


Bob Walden said...

All cool but no C cabs!!!

toysearcher said...

Hi Bob,

I don;t know Matalcraft was in business at the time of the "C" cab, albeit the fact that toys are not always made specify to the time the company existed. In other words, I'll have to research to see if Metalcraft did in fact make the "C" cap trucks which were very early trucks of the 20th century.