This category of collections in the National Museum of Play® consists of toys associated with major manufacturing companies that are known primarily for particular types of toys, or that are no longer in business, or that no longer produce toys. All the types of toys represented here are also represented in other ways under the heading Toy Collections.
Arcade Manufacturing Company Collection
Between 1885 and 1943 the Arcade Manufacturing Company of Freeport, Illinois, made a number of metal products, but it is best known for its cast-iron playthings, including cars, trucks, buses, planes, farm vehicles, savings banks, and even pint-sized tools and garden implements. The company distinguished itself with novel advertising and with recognizable models of known brands such as popular automobiles, Ford farm equipment, and Chicago Yellow Cabs. The museum holds more than 100 examples of these toys.
Since the 1930s, when the company began making toys of heavy steel and ponderosa pine decorated with eye-catching lithograph images of charming bears, ducks, donkeys, and other animals, Fisher-Price toys have been among the earliest playthings received by many American babies and toddlers. After Mattel purchased the company in 1993, its toys reached markets around the world. The museum holds more than 230 Fisher-Price products, including push toys, pull toys, play sets, and Little People.
See also “I’d Like to Thank All the Little People.”
Louis Marx Collection
In 1955, Time magazine named Louis Marx & Company “the Toy king.” Between 1921 and 1972, the company produced a wide variety of toys ranging from dolls, dollhouses, trains, cars and vehicles to toy soldiers, toy guns, action figures, and an immense variety of mechanical tin toys. Yearly alterations kept Marx toys in production for decades and thus held down per unit costs, and toys based on popular television and movie characters boosted the company in the 1950s and 1960s. Among the more than 200 Marx toys in the museum’s collection are popular stand-outs like Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots, the Big Wheel tricycle, and Honeymoon Express wind-up toys.
See also “X Marks the Big Spot in the Toy Industry.”
Arto Monaco Collection, 1945-1995
Adirondacks native Arto Monaco designed and built theme parks and toys over a career spanning six decades. Known widely for developing Land of Makebelieve in Upper Jay, NY, and Santa’s Workshop in North Pole, NY, he consulted on projects from Disneyland to Montreal’s Expo 67 World’s Fair. Monaco began designing and making toys and games through his Arto Monaco Toys company in the 1950s and developed a reputation for both educational and whimsical designs, many with circus motifs. The collection includes more than 300 toys and prototypes, plus a selection of advertising materials, and illustrates small-scale, quality toy manufacturing.
See also “Arto Monaco Toys Donated to The Strong.”
Playskool Toddler Collection
This collection of toddler-oriented Playskool toys includes more than 100 artifacts. Playskool originated in the 1920s with two teachers designing toys for classrooms. In the 1960s the company increased sales in part through a “Learning While Playing” slogan. Now owned by Hasbro’s Milton Bradley, the company is a leading manufacturer of toys for infants and children. Perhaps best known for simple wooden toys like blocks and pegboards, Playskool also makes toddler clothing, preschool books, and interactive computer games. The brand is also associated with such iconic toys as Play-Doh and Mr. Potato Head and with toy lines featuring Barney the purple dinosaur and the Teletubbies. These and other Playskool toys are represented elsewhere in the museum’s collections.
Ty Beanie Baby Collection
Ty, maker of numerous types of plush toys, produced its first nine Beanie Babies in 1993, and almost instantly the moderately priced, diminutively sized, plush animals became best sellers in specialty shops throughout the United States. Tiny PVC beads made Beanies flexible and poseable, low prices made them affordable, and creative marketing—including limited production and avoidance of large-chain retailers—made them desirable. By 2010, the company had produced nearly 1,800 different Beanie Babies. The museum’s collection includes nearly 800 examples, most of which are gifts from Ty. Also included are miniature versions offered as Happy Meal toys at McDonald’s.