More Connections to Ohio Toys!

Thanks to the suggestions of our readers, we have complied a second list of Ohio toy companies.

Toys are a 22.09 billion dollar industry a year in the United States. The highest number of toy sales traditionally happens in December, as families across the United States prepare to celebrate the holidays. Ohio has long been at the forefront of the toy industry, dating back to the mid-19th century.

Marble found during excavations at Adena.

Marble found during excavations at Adena.

Akron was formally one of the largest producing marble playing set cities in the country. Comprised of several marble makers and creators around the city, the industry rapidly grew in the city, “In the 1880s, Akron marble maker Sam Dyke churned out more than 1 million clay marbles a day – believed to be the first time in history a toy company mass-produced a product aimed specifically for children.”[1] In 1903, Martin Frederick Christensen made the first machine-made glass marbles on his patented machine in Akron. The companies expanded to other industries; the American Marble & Toy Manufacturing Co. produced the oldest known figurine of Santa Claus, known as the Blue Santa.[2] By the 1950s, Japanese toy makers had introduced inexpensive cats-eye marbles and quickly began to outsell American makers. Companies and makers in Akron quickly began to shut production of marbles down and turn to other products; in 2010, Jabo, the last marble maker in Ohio, closed. In 1991, the non-profit organization, the American Toy Marble Museum was founded and the group opened their museum in Akron in 1995 to honor the city’s marble making history.

Courtesy of the Barberton Public Library, these Tod-L-Tim and Tod-L-Dee rubber dolls were created by the Sun Rubber Company.

Courtesy of the Barberton Public Library, these Tod-L-Tim and Tod-L-Dee rubber dolls were created by the Sun Rubber Company.

Sun Rubber Toys of Barberton, Ohio was founded in 1923, in the midst of a rubber boom for the area, as wartime rationing ended for companies. The Sun Rubber Toy Company produced rubber toy and squeak dolls, including many licensed characters like Gerber Baby dolls, Mickey Mouse, and Donald Duck. The company learned to adapt during rationing in WWII, making rubber gas masks for citizens, including one in the shape of Mickey Mouse. In February 1949, Sun Rubber introduced Amosandra, the radio daughter of Amos and Ruby from Columbia Broadcasting’s Amos n’ Andy show, “employment at the plant increased from 800 to 1,150 to meet production demands of 12,000 dolls per day.”[3] In 1957, with the creation of easier and cheaper new materials, the company started to use vinyl in their toy productions. Unfortunately, the company was unable to keep up toy trends and rising labor costs; they shut their doors in 1974.

The Mascon Toy Company originally started as part of The Steel Stamping Company in the early 1920s in Lorain, Ohio. The company began producing toy telephones and play furniture during the 1950s; in 1962, Masco acquired the company. After lackluster sales, Masco sold off the branch and in January 1965 it officially became the Mascon Toy Company, creating over 50 different plastic toys for preschoolers. The company is perhaps based known for the Lil’ Nuffins Little People set. After suffering sales, the company changed its name in 1974 to Blazon-Flexible Flyer Mascon Toys before finally shutting down in 1975.

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First organized as the Kenton Lock Manufacturing Company in 1890, the Kenton Hardware Company quickly became one of the world’s largest cast iron toy factories.  The Kenton Hardware Company was promoted as “the largest factory in the USA exclusively making cast iron toys” at the turn of the twentieth century. One of Hardin County’s largest employers, the factory produced a variety of toys that were miniature versions of fire engines, circus wagons, carriages, banks, trains, and stoves. The company’s 1923 catalog included more than 700 toys. In 1937, the company introduced its most famous top, the Gene Autry toy pistol; 2 million sold in the first year alone.  After WWII, cheaper materials like plastic were introduced, making it difficult for the company to keep competitive pricing on its expensive cast iron toys. The company officially dissolved in 1956, but its toys remain highly sought after today.

Richard and Sarah Grosvenor began producing toys for infants in their home in Piqua, Ohio in the 1940s when their son Michael, nicknamed “Tykie”, began teething. They produced primarily “crib toys” made of Bakelite. By 1944, the Tykie Toy Company had 15 employees and their products were sold across the nation, at stores like Marshall Field’s. Production was halted briefly after WWII during the coal strike of 1946. The company reopened in 1947, but never held the popularity it had before the strike, shutting down in 1952.

CaptureCharles William Doepke opened a small metal stamping business in the late 1930s in the Oakley neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio. After government contracts ended after WWII, Doepke ventured into toy production in 1946, creating small metal cars. These cars became known as Doepke Model Toys; due to Doepke’s experience in metal, he was able to create almost exact replicas on a miniature scale. In 1959, the company shut down, but Doepke model toys are some of the most collectable toys today.

Lazarus Family Collection, photograph of Nadine Burden's son admiring a toy plane in The F. & R. Lazarus Company's toy department, ca. 1950-1959.

Lazarus Family Collection, photograph of Nadine Burden’s son admiring a toy plane in The F. & R. Lazarus Company’s toy department, ca. 1950-1959.

The yo-yo is generally credited as the second oldest toy in the world. One of the largest Yo-Yo producers actually has its roots in Ohio. The Duncan Toy Company was founded in 1929 by Donald Duncan in California aimed to produce mass quantities of yo-yos. The company quickly became synonymous with yo-yos producing millions a year.  The company moved produced to Wisconsin, but by the mid-1960s, it was forced to file for bankruptcy after the yo-yo fad died out. In 1968, the Flambeau Company bought out the Duncan Toy Company and moved the company to its headquarters in Middlefield, Ohio. The newly acquired company was re-marketed and became a hit once more, launching several lines and designs of yo-yos. The company continues to produce yo-yos today and even sponsors the yo-yo world championship.

A newer Ohio toy company was started in 2002, but quickly became a staple in the toy industry. Dunecraft Products was launched in Chagrin Falls, Ohio by entrepreneur Grover Cleveland (a descendent of 22nd President of the US), originally housed in his home, for the production of a cactus growing kit for kids known as the Odd Pod. The kit became so successful, the company expanded, offering over 300 products today and moved its headquarters to a large plant in Warrensville Heights, Ohio.[4]

The Berlin Wood Products Company started in 1965 by John Yoder in Millersburg, Ohio as a lawn and garden tool manufacturer, selling various models of wheelbarrows and moving carts. In the early 70s, the company developed the Berlin Flyer Wooden Wagon as a way to use wood material not suitable for other products. The wagon became so successful, it sold more than any other product made by the company. The company continues to make all of the parts of the wagon in Ohio today.

Did you have toys made by any of these companies? What other Ohio made toys do you know of?

Emily Lang, History Curator

[1] Sell, Jill. “Spherical Fun.” Ohio Magazine, February 1, 2007.

[2] “Blue Santa.” The American Toy Marble Museum Akron, Ohio. Accessed December 15, 2014. http://www.americantoymarbles.com/.

[3] Rinker, Harry. “The End Of The Sun Rubber Story.” The Morning Call, April 22, 1990.

[4] Seeds, Dennis. “Grant Cleveland Began DuneCraft with Odd Pods, and Now He’s the Odds-on Favorite.” Smart Business Magazine. August 1, 2014. Accessed December 15, 2014. http://www.sbnonline.com/article/grant-cleveland-began-dunecraft-odd-pods-now-hes-odds-favorite/.

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One Response to More Connections to Ohio Toys!

  1. ljellis2000 says:

    Thank you for these wonderful additions to the list of Ohio toy manufacturers, both past and present. Thank you for showcasing the toys and their impact on Ohio’s history and beyond.

    Ohio has definitely made its mark in the toy industry that will last well into the future!

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