SELECTED ARTICLES

THE READING ROOM
Structo Toys 1915 - 1920
TCA Library and Historical Committee
The toy company we know as Structo was formed in 1908 by partners Louis Strohacker and C.E. Thompson. Located in Freeport, Illinois at 122 North Powell Avenue, they were originally known as the Thompson Company. The company started by making erector-type toy steel construction sets which they sold directly to the retailer as well as being marketed to A.C. Gilbert and Company of Connecticut who had construction sets of their own. Thompson sold the construction line to Gilbert in 1915.

From 1916 to 1919 Thompson made electric motor-driven toys and highly detailed automotive assembly kits including those illustrated here. Over the succeeding years they had a close and cooperative relationship with an equally famous neighbor company in the same town--Arcade. Structo made stamped-steel parts for Arcade toys and Arcade made cast-iron parts for Structo toys.

By the 1920s, the company was making stamped-steel windup and push toys, some with spring motors and others without. In the late 1920s and into the early 1930s the Structo line was also marketed to American Flyer of Chicago, Illinois, and occupied colorful prime space in the back of the American Flyer toy train catalogs of the time.

An article in the local Freeport newspaper in 1932 stated that the company had transformed the mechanized line into push-type pressed steel toys. These were less expensive to both make and sell, so the decision was probably motivated by the deepening national economic recession. Right up to the Second World War, the company made a variety of transportation toys such as trucks, vans, and passenger cars as well as construction toys like road graders and steam shovels. The company converted to making war materiel in 1942.

Shortly after the war, Structo built a state-of-the-art production line that turned out large-scale realistic transportation and construction toys with real rubber Goodyear-label tires, hoods that opened, and realistically detailed headlights. They also produced for a brief time in the late 1940s, a few boats made of wood and carried on steel trailers.

The company, its trademark, and most of its assets were purchased by the ERTL toy company in 1975. Many of the Structo toys today are highly-prized by vintage toy collectors.

Catalog pages reprinted with permission of the TCA Library and Historical Committee, Strasburg, PA, August 12, 2012

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