From the early days of the telephone, companies recognised that as the telephone would be a feature of homes in the future, their advertising was best aimed at kids. Small toy telephone repair trucks were made by various manufacturers, the best0selling examples being made by the Auburn Rubber Co.
The original children’s haulage toys were pull-carts, and it was not until around 1924 that pedal car trucks were introduced. Garton was one of the first companies with a range of pedal car trucks; you can see their 1927 advert below.
Pedal tricycles with a carrying capacity were a postwar innovation.
1950s Garton Telephone Repairman Tricycle
FRONT WHEEL 12.5″
REAR WHEELS: 8.5″
It was a lucky three or four year old kid the in the 1950s who got to ride around the house and yard with dad’s tools in the back of his tricycle fixing telephones. I must admit to doing similar, though in England in the fifties, three-year-old repairman were not allocated ‘company vehicles’ so a much greater degree of imagination was required for our games. I hadn’t given it much thought before, but perhaps that’s why, sixty years later, I drive a large van with assorted bicycle parts in the back?
I don’t think Garton made many Telephone Repairman tricycles. But there was a variety of American ‘commercial’ kids’ tricycles available in similar style from the mid-fifties onwards, from makers including Murray, Hettrick and Garton, and including general delivery, ice cream vans, police and fire tricycles.
The box on the rear of this Garton is wooden, and I assume the dark olive and white colour scheme is the same used by the Bell Telephone company. Selecting a suitable location to photograph it on its arrival in England required a bit of head-scratching, but then I remembered the old phone box outside the Village Tea Rooms in Stanmer Park.
GARTON TOY CO
Sheboygan, Wisconsin, USA
For more than 95 years beginning in 1879, the Garton Toy Co. played Santa Claus and created great Christmases for children everywhere. They manufactured the coaster wagons, sleds, tricycles, scooters and pedal cars of which we all dreamed. At one time, Garton was the largest wheel goods toy factory in the world.
Company founder, Eusebius Bassingdale Garton was born near Toronto, Canada, in 1843 of English immigrants. E.B. arrived in America in 1864, finding employment at Jos. Richardson’s sawmill in Sheboygan Falls driving an oxen dray in the lumberyard.
E.B. had his first epiphany concerning toys while working for Sheboygan Carriage Company. Legend has it that young Garton put four wooden wheels on one of the cigar boxes manufactured there because he envisioned a “motion conveyance having play value for children” — a complicated explanation for toys, but then and there a toy dynasty began.
Garton Toy started in a small frame woodworking shop along the north bank of the Sheboygan River near the Eighth Street Bridge. It initially manufactured anything and everything that was needed by consumers including cigar boxes, washboards and fish boxes. But, as time passed, production moved toward toys. By 1882, the nation’s first coaster wagon, all-wooden in construction — even wheels and axles — was introduced by the firm.
The year 1887 brought one of Garton’s first catalogs featuring the new Pony Express wagon with iron wheels instead of wood.
As the century progressed, new products were introduced, stick horses, fancy willow carriages, hooded toy cradles, a child’s parlor swing and a striped wagon that could be pulled by a dog or goat.
In 1890, the company suffered heavy financial loss when fire leveled the plant after sparks from the smoke stack of the neighboring Halsted factory ignited Garton Toy.
After considering and rejecting a move to Chicago, a new and larger factory was built on property at North Water Street and Niagara Avenue in Sheboygan. This new factory employed 150 and was logically outfitted with a primitive sprinkler system, albeit state-of-the-art for the time.
For the next 50 years Garton Toy introduced something new to the toy market annually. The company’s first star was an iron velocipede, a forerunner of the tricycle. It had large spoke, metal wheels, a fiber seat and wooden handlebars. Next came the sled, introduced in 1915 at a time when Garton Toy Co. was recognized as a leader in the toy industry. An ironclad wagon, a revision of the original wooden one, also appeared sometime around 1915.
Soon after came sidewalk autos or pedal cars. They ranged from deluxe models like the Pierce Arrow to more mundane brands like the Buick. The most distinctive toy in company history was the 1950 Garton Kidillac.
Wheel goods with metal bodies became the company’s specialty through the decades after 1920. The steel body wagon arrived in 1929. Within the toy trade, the color of those much-loved coaster wagons and tricycles was known simply as “Garton Red.”
Disaster struck the company again on May 31, 1929, when the largest fire in the city of Sheboygan’s history consumed Garton Toy for a second time. The Sheboygan Press deemed it “the day the city went wild.”
But, all good things must come to an end. The introduction of plastics to the toy industry and increased government regulation led to Garton’s demise. Sale of the company to a finance and investment organization based in Milwaukee was announced in 1973. The Garton Toy Factory, pictured below, is now an apartment building.
1950s AUBURN RUBBER Co TELEPHONE TRUCK
The most popular toy telephone repair trucks were made by the Auburn Rubber Co, as seen here. This finely detailed rubber truck is 7″ long.
I enjoy accessorising bicycles and tricycles. A bell, lamp, pump or saddlebag would be suitable items for an adult size machine, but an item this size requires a different approach. So I looked at my Sears catalogue and bought the Auburn rubber telephone truck, above, and the Gong Bell Mfg Co ‘Voice Phone’ junior telephone set, below.
GONG BELL MFG CO
PHOTOSHOOT LOCATION: STANMER PARK (by VILLAGE TEA ROOMS)
IN passing over the Downs from Rottingdean to Falmer, there is a moment when, having breasted the hill, we look across a vast stretch of unbroken Downland with the small village of Falmer below and rising ground beyond its valley, leading the eye upwards towards those high hills to the north where, if we rode across country, we should find Ditchling Beacon and the Clayton windmills. Slightly to the north-west, in a coombe sheltered by groves of tall trees, stands a stately mansion with parklike ground near it merging quickly into downland.
This is the finest view of Stanmer that I know, and as we look down admiringly at this house. so well placed, so essentially typical of one of the die 18th century homes of England, our hearts go out in hopeful well-wishing to the young owner of it, still at Eton, the representative of those Pelhams whose ” buckle ” emblem. gained at Poitiers, is a household word with Sussex people.
– Viscountess Wolseley, ‘Historic Houses of Sussex
Stanmer has a working farm at its centre. Near the church is an unusual survival, a donkey-wheel, i.e. a treadmill formerly operated by a donkey. There are 18th-century lodge-houses at the upper and lower ends of the park. The village was incorporated into Brighton in 1928, and the park passed into the hands of the county council in 1947. It is now a major public space.
Garton Toy Co info thanks to – http://www.sheboyganpress.com/story/news/local/2014/12/19/sheboygan-history-column/20668511/
Stanmer Park – http://scm.pastfinders.org/scm_04_stanmer.htm