by David R. Gray
Lincoln Toys are well-known among Canadian toy collectors, but the background and origins of the firms that made and marketed these toys are much less familiar. In this article I want to share some of the information I have gathered on the companies that made Lincoln Toys.
From only one of the hard-to-find company catalogues, probably from 1952 or 1953, we know that twenty-four different trucks were made, in three basic sizes and two cab styles; plus a crane and power shovel; several variations of a Massey-Harris 44 tractor; a set of farm implements; one airplane; a toy wheelbarrow; and a doll's high chair and swing. Lincoln Toys distributed many thousands of these toys, and many Canadian homes must have had one or another of this wide array of toys. How did the company get started and what led to this great selection of toys?
For the complete story of the beginning of Lincoln Toys we have to go back to the days just after World War II in Windsor, Ontario, to trace the background development of Lincoln Specialties Limited, the company that marketed toys under the name Lincoln Toys. The Lincoln Toys were actually designed and manufactured by two different firms, Windsor Steel Products and Ellwood Metal Products.
1. Windsor Steel Products
During the Second World War, Mr. Ed Kimmerly and his eldest brother, Fred, both of Windsor, Ontario, started a company called Kay Manufacturing in 1941, after leaving a partnership with a family friend in a company called L K Metal. Their first factory, purchased in 1941, was a small building at 1637 Erie Street East, near the corner of Lincoln and Erie Streets. Kay Manufacturing received a contract to produce ammunition boxes and fenders for the Canadian Army. To get started they bought second-hand punch presses and had their own dies made. The company name was changed from Kay Manufacturing to Windsor Steel in 1942. Among other things, they made portable soft drink coolers and sun visors for cars. With improvements in techniques and much hard work, their production increased to where they began to run out of space in that small building. A new factory was planned and built at 1701 Shepherd Street in 1943, and became the home of Windsor Steel Products.
2. Lincoln Specialties
When it was suggested that there might be more profit in both manufacturing and doing their own sales too, the owners of Windsor Steel decided to open up a sales outlet in 1946. The office for this new enterprise was the old factory building near the corner of Lincoln and Erie Streets, hence the name "Lincoln Specialties". The interior of the original building was remodelled to create offices and a small display area. In its first appearance in the Windsor city directory in 1946, Lincoln Specialties Limited was listed as "wholesale hardware specialists." With the slow-down in business after the war, Windsor Steel was looking for new opportunities. Among the first successful suggestions were bicycle baskets and kick stands. With an abundant supply of scraps of sheet steel left over from the war-time production of ammunition boxes, such small-sized items were ideal. Windsor Steel by this time had their own tool room, with a lathe, shaper, and milling machines, and could make their own dies. So when an idea for a toy was presented, everything fell into place. The men running Windsor Steel decided they could make the toys that were suggested and proceeded to make dies for them.
The first toy was probably the No. 54 "repeating all-steel cannon" which appears in the Eaton's Fall-Winter catalogue for 1946-47. These cannons were likely a copy of a similar American-made cannon. The rectangular label on these toys reads "Made in Canada, LINCOLN SPECIALTIES, WINDSOR, ONT."