In 1868, the Novelty Iron Works was one of the first industrial companies in Freeport, Illinois. At first it produced feed grinders, plows and other agricultural products for the farm communities around it. By 1884, water pumps, windmills, iron sections for store fronts and flooring and box coffee mills were added to the line. Its president, E.H. Morgan, decided that they could use the scrap lumber from the box coffee mills to make toy coffee mills and these became the first toys produced by the company. By 1939, they would produce more than 300 toys.
In 1885, the company moved its operations to a new section of Freeport called the Arcade Addition. At the same time they incorporated and renamed themselves Arcade Manufacturing Company for their new location.
During the decade of the 1920s Arcade became completely mechanized. To speed up their output, they developed molding machines, which they also marketed to other manufacturing companies. Toys moved from molding machines to tumblers where rough edges were removed. Then ill-fitting parts were repaired and pieces were plated as required. Next they went to an assembly line where they were riveted and painted either by spraying or dipping. After drying and inspection a decal was applied. Most Arcade toys have the name cast in the toy. It was also during this period that they adopted the marketing slogan, “They Look Real” to emphasize the fact that they took the shapes and colors of their toys from real life.
After the tremendous success of their first cast iron car, the “Yellow Cab,” Arcade realized the potential of automotive toys. They concentrated in this area and subsequently devloped the most important line of cast iron automotive toys in America. They also produced farm toys, advertising and comic toys, toy banks, trains, dollhouse furnishings and cast iron penny toys using many real objects as models.
Arcade continued toy production until 1942. The company was sold to Rockwell Manufacturing of Buffalo, New York in 1946.
This toy, a six-man Fire Pumper #6990, measures approximately 13 ¼” long. It is an excellent example of Arcade’s integral casting that includes the firemen, tools and suction hoses. Even its nickel-plated hose reel is locked in place to prevent loss. Built on a 1938 Ford truck chassis, this toy is scarce. Its production was short-lived, a victim of hard economic times and Arcade’s decision to concentrate on smaller, light-weight castings and World’ s Fair toys for 1939. This toy shows some restoration and overpainting. “Arcade,” “6990” and “Made in U.S.A.” are clearly cast in the inside body of the toy.
Antique Toy Vehicles