This week’s article is the last in a series of a bygone era for Canadian toy manufacturers. The article will include a short overview and history of the company, along with examples from a collection. Lincoln toys are very well known and are desired by Canadian toy enthusiasts and collectors alike. Information and catalogues that were once used by companies are very scarce. They produced good and rugged quality toys, including 24 different trucks, two cab styles, in three sizes, a power shovel, dolls including high chair and swing, toy wheelbarrow, one airplane, one set of farming implements, and lastly, several variations of a Massey-Harris Model 44 tractor.
While the Second World War was raging, two brothers incorporated a business in Windsor, Ontario. The two brothers were Frederick and Haven Kimmerly and the company was Kay Manufacturing. The building that housed Kay Manufacturing was located at 1637 Erie Street East, near the corner of Lincoln and Erie Streets. During the war, Kay Manufacturing was awarded a Canadian Government contract to produce fenders and ammunition boxes for the Canadian Military. They began manufacturing using previously owned Hydraulic presses and their own Kay Manufactured dies. In 1942 the company underwent a name from Kay Manufacturing to Windsor Steel. The company grew quickly and as a result they ended up moving to 1701 Shepherd Street, Windsor in 1943. They continued to manufacture a vast array of products, including sun visors for automobiles and portable soft drink coolers, complete with custom soda company advertising. Up until this time Windsor Steel was whole selling only. In 1946 the owners decided to open up a sales counter outlet. The chosen location for this new outlet was a previously occupied building near the corner of Lincoln and Erie Streets, hence the name, “Lincoln Specialties”. The end of WWII caused a massive slowdown in their business and as such they began to explore new opportunities in order to remain open. They were adequately equipped with left over steel from the wartime production of ammunition boxes. By this time Windsor Steel also had an inhouse tool room, complete with a shaper, a lathe, and several milling machines and were capable of also producing their own dies. When the suggestion of manufacturing toys was eventually made all the stars lined up and the rest is simply history.
Doll making quickly became the main production item with the company importing parts from the USA and doll heads from Germany, who at that time was a major producer. Later the same year, Reliable Toy Company began to manufacture complete dolls, with all self-sourced and produced products. Over the next several years, they moved locations several times a year, always to larger premises than the one previously occupied. In 1925, the company moved to a 3000 square foot building on King Street West and in 1928, during a period of rapid growth, they once again relocated, upgrading to a 13,000 square foot space on Phoebe. In 1933, the Reliable Toy Company bought the assets of a former competitor, Dominion Toy. This move gave Reliable Toy Company the entire Canadian market with no rival domestic competitors.
Interestingly enough, the very first “Lincoln” toy manufactured was actually a wooden Jeep, comprised of two halves connected together by means of one single joint. This joint was designed so that it allowed the toy to make smooth turns and was able to endure more wear and tear from uneven playing surfaces. This toy is very rare and it’s the only wooden toy ever manufactured by Lincoln. The company continued to thrive for a few years but despite their successes both Windsor Steel and Lincoln Specialties fell victim to the relentless and increased foreign competition which weighed heavily on the companies.
Unsuccessful bids by Windsor Steel to regain manufacturing rights back from automotive companies further contributed to their demise. In 1958 Lincoln Specialties and Windsor Steel ceased operations and were officially dissolved in 1959. Through their successes and eventual failures, “Lincoln” toys were highly sought by collectors and enthusiasts alike, because they provide us with a reminiscent and whimsical glimpse of the past.
The following examples of “Lincoln” Toys from part of my collection:
- 1950’s No. 5201 – 8” Lincoln Specialties No. 5201 “Phil Wood Dump-Bodies” Truck. Original water transfer decals, truck in un-played condition with impossible to find original box.
- 1950’s No. 5203 – 8” Lincoln Specialties No. 5203 “Lincoln Fire Department” Truck. Original water transfer decals, truck in un-played condition with impossible to find original box.
- 1950’s – 14” Lincoln Specialties cement truck. Original water transfer labels. Very early version made by Elmwood Metal Products for Lincoln Toys.
- 1950’s – 16” Lincoln Specialties Fire Truck, complete with original water transfer decals, and two original ladders.
- 1950’s 16” “Coca-Cola” distribution truck, complete with 16 cases of Coca-Cola. Partial label on door and hood. Well-used and graded at C-4.