A toy soldier riding a motorcycle made by Barclay, one of the original American toy soldier manufacturers.
For many of today’s adults, lead soldiers are toys that our parents or grandparents played with. By the time they came around, the lead soldier was mostly a thing of the past, and if soldiers were in the toy box, they would be of the plastic, known almost universally as “Little Green Army Men.”
But monochromatic and limited to a dozen poses, Little Green Army Men had nothing on those old lead minutemen and doughboys produced by Barclay, Manoil and Grey Iron, the major manufacturers of lead soldiers in the United States. Another producer of dime-store solders was the Auburn Rubber Co. of Auburn, Indiana.
An Auburn cycle.
Auburn began producing toys soldiers in 1935 with an assortment of five different figures. Auburn figures were made of rubber—the only soldiers made of this material. Unfortunately, its rubber construction meant that the soldiers bent, tilted, leaned and were not as finely detailed as their metal friends.
But because of the scarcity, the products of some of the less-successful metal soldier manufacturers have become highly valued.
The toy soldiers of All-Nu, owned by former Barclay sculptor Frank Krupp, are probably the rarest and extremely well designed. Krupp sculpted each master out of ordinary clay placed over a wire armature. His figures also included an array of newsreel cameramen and a spirited group of marching majorettes. All-Nu’s soldiers have the company name stamped on the under base. They remained in business from 1938 to 1941.
Another company, “The Warren Lines,” ranked among the finest in toy soldiers manufactured. Warren’s toy troops are most superbly crafted. U.S. Cavalrymen were fumed out by an American maker. Horses came in seven positions and were painted in a rainbow of colors. The troopers held pistols, sabers, rifles or troop guidons and regimental standards in their hands. Infantry figures came in a variety of stances. Rounding out the modern infantry section was a machine gun section.
A set of Comet "The Brigadiers" soldiers
John Warren abandoned his venture in 1939. In 1941 Warren sold off the remaining stock to Comet Metal Products Co. which was then producing its own line of toy soldiers. One line called “The Brigadiers” were close cousins of Britain’s modes, complete with movable arms. After World War II, Comet employed a Swede named Hoger Eriksson who designed a new line of toy warriors of the world.
Eriksson created more than 200 masters in 55 and 40 millimeters, with the basic figures carved out of modeler’s wax. Next, a plaster mold from which the first metal figures were cast, using an alloy of half tin and half lead. The extra tin content kept the metal soft enough to refine the figure, adding extra detail and “individual expression.” The result was toy soldiers that had no match in realistic detail. Comet issued these figures under the trademark Authenticast-Comet Gaeltacht Industries. Comet’s Authenticast line represents the last serious effort by an American maker to create a quality toy soldier.
When Barclay closed in 1971 the American toy soldier was no more, and the breach was left open for the invasion of the Little Green Army Men.
— Jane & Jerry Walkup
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