by David R. Gray
In the world of toy collectors, toy aircraft are not as common as other transportation toys, such as cars and trucks. Aircraft are by nature more fragile than other toys, and most do not survive the rigours of play. As well, fewer aircraft toys were made by the toy companies. Only five of the major Canadian toy manufacturers are known to have included aircraft in their toy lines.
The story of Canadian toy aircraft reflects the story of the Canadian toy industry itself. Before the First World War, most toys sold in Canada were imported from Britain, the United States, or Germany. Although there were many more Canadian toys produced during and after the war, specific examples of toy aircraft from this period are as yet unknown. A second boost to the Canadian industry came during the Second World War when imports declined further. For obvious reasons, war toys, including some aircraft, predominated during the war. The Canadian toy industry grew following the war with several firms relying on wartime expertise to break into the toy market. Information on several of these companies and their products is presented here.
The first Canadian toy aircraft produced in any quantity may have been the die-cast metal Hawker Hurricane produced during the Second World War under the LONDONTOY name by Webster Bros. Ltd, of London, Ontario, Canada. The Hurricane was the only aircraft produced in a toy line which included cars, trucks, and buses.
The Hawker Hurricane came in two versions, an early, wartime version and a later civilian model. The early version has several distinctive features which facilitate identification. It has a tricolor roundel on the upper surface of each wing, and pressed cardbaod wheels. Cast into the underside of the left wing are the words "LONDONTOY" and the model number "NO11" as well as the word "CANADA" in slightly smaller letters. The underside of the right wing bears the inscription "HAWKER HURRICANE" presented on two lines, and the words "MADE IN" in a size matching Canada on the other wing. A variation of the early version sports a Union Jack instead of the tricolor roundel, but all other details remain the same.
The plane was sold in sets which included some combination of military figures, aircraft support vehicles, hangers, gas pump and signs. The Eaton's Fall & Winter Catalogue for 1841-42 depicts three variations of these sets. One, Set No. 44, (Boxed Airdrome Set) included two Hurricanes, a cardboard hanger, three signs, a gas pump a metal fire truck (No. 16) and referred to as a "crash truck", as well as a metal tanker (No. 13) which was called a "crash tender". Other sets include military figures including a pilot, an airman and an officer.
Prior to 1945 a more civilian looking version of the Hurricane, was found in production. The upper surfaces of the plane were painted in one of four colors: red, blue, yellow or green. It is not uncommon to find black roundels and several different wheel types. In addition to the aforementioned pressed cardboard, large pressed rubber wheels with a big inside bevel can be found. So too can smaller rubber "donut" type wheels held in place between the metal axle support and a peened axle end.
The LONDONTOY Hawker Hurricane can also be found as part of a "Gyroplane Set" produced by the Herzan Manufacturing Company of Toronto, Ontario.
2. LINCOLN TOYS
Lincoln Toys, marketed by LINCOLN SPECIALTIES LIMITED, of Windsor, Ontario, are well known among Canadian toy collectors and others who delight in pressed metal toys from the 1940's and 50's.
Their 40 passenger DC-4 was abig seller when it was first made in 1948, and remains a much sought after piece even today. The DC-4 was produced in at least three color variations. All carried round decals sporting "TCA" on a maple leaf on the wings and below the cockpit windows. Some variations have a large decal reading "TRANS CANADA AIRLINES" on each side of the fusilage.
Each wig sports 2 engine cowlings and aluminum propellors. It is said that the propellors were punched out of metal scraps left over from making ladders for Lincoln Toy fire engines, which in turn were produced from scrap metal obtained from a company which made parts for the real aircraft industry.
The DC-4 remained in production until its decline in popularity in the mid 1950's. In fact, Simpson's advertized this toy as a special manufacturer's clearance item in September 1954, at the cost of 88 cents Canadian. Isn't it interesting that today one of these planes in good condition will fetch almost $100.00