The following is a guest blog written by Becky Cunningham, a contributor for Capital Steel & Wire, Inc. and a writer with expertise in communication and public relations. Capital Steel & Wire, Inc. is a supplier of domestic and international steel bar and wire products.
Throughout history, millions of dolls, trucks, board games, balls, stuffed animals, crafts, and other toys have been introduced for children of all ages and generations. The best toys of all time are debatable, but there are those few standard toys that have made an important mark in the life of the American child. What’s more significant is that these toys have one fundamental feature in common—they are all made of steel. Check out our list of the top 10 steel toys of all time.
“It’s Slinky! It’s Slinky! For fun it’s a wonderful toy. It’s Slinky! It’s Slinky! It’s fun for a girl or a boy.” Slinky—and its famous jingle—is certainly a childhood classic; the slogan speaks for itself. But what the slogan doesn’t say is “It’s steel! It’s steel!” The ever-popular Slinky, developed in 1943 by mechanical engineer Richard James, was a hit the moment it was available in stores. In November 1945, Gimbels Department Store sold its entire inventory of Slinkys in just 90 minutes.
This “walking” toy was actually an accidental creation. In an attempt to develop springs to support sensitive instruments aboard ships in war time, James inadvertently created a spring that bounced around different levels of his workshop and recoiled into an upright position. Fascinated by this discovery, he experimented with different types of steel and tensions, and, a year later, made a spring that would walk—the Slinky.
2. Radio Flyer Wagon
In 1930, the Radio Steel & Manufacturing Company made one of the most cherished steel entities to date—the Radio Flyer Wagon. The Red Flyer, as it is also known, has been a staple in the lives of many children over the past eight decades. While this red wagon is now available in wood and plastic versions, the classic red wagon was made of steel and a steel version is still available for purchase.
3. Easy-Bake Oven
Although the Easy-Bake Oven is made mostly of plastic and aluminum today, the first model sported stainless steel. The Kenner Easy-Bake Oven introduced in 1964 was 14 inches tall, with a stainless steel non-functioning range top and a stainless steel banner across the front that read “Kenner Easy-Bake Oven.” This microwave-sized oven has been capable of baking cakes, cookies, brownies, and other snacks, and has expanded its repertoire over the years to bake items such as quail, quiche, and biscuits.
Children have fallen in love with the Easy-Bake Oven year after year, even as it has changed size, color, and design. In 2006, the Easy-Bake Oven was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame, where it will be forever upheld as one of America’s most nostalgic toys.
4. Tonka Truck
In 1947, Tonka began selling metal toys, which eventually became the manufacturer’s primary business. Of these metals toys, the most popular throughout the years have been the Mighty Dump Truck and related Mighty construction equipment models—all of which were originally made of steel and earned the reputation of being indestructible. In the late 1980s, Tonka began manufacturing plastic Tonka truck models rather than steel. However, the steel models remain a supreme and classic representation of the Tonka Company.
5. Erector sets
This motorized toy made of steel parts—complete with nuts, bolts, pulleys, gears, and motors—was one of the first toy construction sets made for children’s play. Created by former Olympian and doctor, A.C. Gilbert, the Erector Set made it possible for children to imagine and create motorized models such as Ferris wheels and skyscrapers.
6. Red Ryder BB Gun
The Red Ryder BB Gun earned a good dose of fame when it was featured in the 1983 film, A Christmas Story, but this spring piston air gun has been famous since its introduction in 1938 by Daisy Outdoor Products. Named after the comic strip cowboy, Red Ryder, the BB gun is capable of shooting BBs 350 feet per second. These fast-flying BBs are made of standard steel, and without them, the Red Ryder wouldn’t be the popular air gun it is today.
7. Slap bracelets
Slap bracelets were created as bracelets of layered, flexible stainless steel spring bands covered with patterned and colorful fabric. Invented in Wisconsin by Stuart Anders, the “Slap Wrap” was popular among children and teenagers in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Slap bracelet enthusiasts sported these colorful bands by slapping the straightened bracelets against their wrists, where they would wrap securely.
Slap bracelets are still popular today, but for different reasons. For example, some cyclists wear these bands around their ankles to prevent their pants from becoming tangled in the bicycle’s gears.
8. Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine
Introduced in 1979, the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine has made it possible for users to transform plain ice cubes into colorful and flavorful snow cones. Children have enjoyed this toy for years due to its ease of use and tasty results. The machine works by using a stainless steel blade to shave ice with a few simple turns of a handle, before adding the included flavoring or juice or soda.
9. Pogo stick
This steel-made toy is both a form of entertainment and exercise. The pogo stick consists of a stainless steel slider shaft with a handle at the top and foot pegs at the bottom, and of course, that resilient spring to facilitate bouncing. Designed by George B. Hansburg in 1957, the steel, two-handled pogo stick was the first of many to bounce into the lives of children and adults alike.
10. Newton’s Cradle
Named after Sir Isaac Newton, this steel contraption has been known as an executive toy, desktop decoration, and educational aid. Also known as the executive ball clicker or Newton’s pendulum, this toy is made of a series of identically sized steel balls suspended from a steel frame by two wires of equal length. First designed to demonstrate conservation of momentum and energy, Newton’s Cradle has evolved into a popular toy for both education and simple entertainment.