A look at the horse-drawn yesteryears


A real treat for some folks is to venture into Holmes County to view the conservative and tranquil lifestyle and manners of the Amish residents.

The care and understanding these folks relate to their horses and other farm animals is to be admired.

Viewing a farmer and his team at work in the field or a buggy drawn by a high-prancing horse on the street is a sight long to be remembered, especially by someone that saw such activity daily in his youth.

Memories. The sight of horse drawn vehicles reminds many of us of our own participation in that activity and then even further back to the years of our childhood to the toys that were drawn by cast iron miniature horses.

Decades ago the streets of the world were crowded with many types of vehicles for personal and business use and the vast majority were horse drawn. As they do today, youngsters emulated the activities of their parents with toys.

Toy manufacturers reproduced in toy form a wide variety of vehicles. Most popular were cast iron ones made by Arcade, Dent and Hubley toy manufacturers. Other materials were employed by Bliss Manufacturing of Rhode Island in late 1800s using wood and Schiesinger in New York City using tinplate. A few other lesser known manufacturers also made horse-drawn toys.

Circus cages, wagons, band wagons and hauling wagons with two draft horses and driver were quite popular. Today these circus pieces are priced between $200 to $2,500. All were brightly painted and to expect a top-dollar price, mint condition is a necessity, not retouched paint.

Slower times. Our yesteryears witnessed little excitement in towns and villages due to slow and often very little transportation entering the community daily and even weekly. Local folks and their travels were limited to necessity and business only. There was no “cruising the town square.”

When even the daily coach or the train broke the silence everyone looked up to watch the passage. Imagine when a circus was in town. It had quite an impact on not only the local scene but Americans every where.

About the mid-1800 plain tinplate circus reproduction toys were produced by Brown of Connecticut, Fallows of Philadelphia and other manufacturers.

Around 1900 tinplate and wood circus wagons covered with lithographed illustrations. Hubley’s band, cage and calliope reproductions were quite popular from 1900 till World War II where upon all metal toy manufacturing slowed almost to nothing.

Until that era business was quite brisk. After the conflict demand was evident but much less.

A note to the collectors, perhaps many are aware of this, any cast iron item finished in black is a reproduction from the era of the 1950s.

Fire wagons. Another favorite among collectors is the fire wagon. Several companies produced cast iron hose reel wagons and fire pumpers. The historical development of fire fighting equipment was followed by the toy vehicles, each era has its representive toy. Early toys representing the real vehicle were similar in construction, often crude and plain in form.

By late 1800 better quality cast iron toys entered the market.

Brown and Ives, Hubley, Carpenter and Pratt and Letchworth were the superior cast iron toy manufacturers. It was mid 1930s before many ceased to produce horse drawn fire vehicle toys.

Quite popular among the younger set was the horse drawn cast iron toys with bells. Vibration of movement usually sounded the bell.

A rare item of this category is the mule drawn wagons made around early 1900 by Dent, Ives and Lehmann. Another unusual type had a goat pulling a clown in a wagon by Kenton of Kenton, Ohio.

Reindeer and dog drawn vehicles were rather uncommon.

Prices. Cast iron toys of authentic origin are a good investment, prices range from $35 for still banks to $6,000 for a Marklin battleship, most are between $100 to $600. A Mack truck is quite common and costs $150 to $300.

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