Brief Tonka History
Just the Highlights
From its beginnings in an old, three floor school house in 1947, Mound Metalcraft Incorporated, located near beautiful Lake Minnetonka in Mound, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis, has grown into what is now the Tonka Toy Group, a division of multi-billion dollar Hasbro Incorporated. Tonka Toys is "Americana". Steel trucks, Tonka tough, built to last. Toy trucks to be handed down from one generation to the next. Solid steel construction has, over the years, given way to more and more plastic content. In mid 1955, Mound Metalcraft moved into a new manufacturing facility that was required to handle their ever increasing product line and an insatiable appetite by consumers for Tonka trucks. In very short order, a 50,000 square foot addition was added to the new manufacturing facility. Tonka Toys indeed was on the grow. Read a 1956 article that was featured in TOYS and NOVELTIES magazine. The future really looked bright. In a major blow to Tonka's Minnesota workforce, steel truck manufacturing began to move from Mound to El Paso, Texas in 1982 with the transfer of equipment and production completed in 1983. In 1998, steel truck manufacturing moved completely out of the United States to a location in mainland China. In today's global manufacturing environment, "Made in the U S A" tends to take a backseat if it affects the bottom line. So much for "Americana". However, if auction sites such as eBay are any indication, vintage Tonka trucks are still very popular. The test of a great innovation is longevity. Early and many not so early Tonka trucks continue to be a solid favorite with kids from 3 to 93.
Mound Metalcraft Company was established in 1946 as a joint venture between Lynn Baker, Avery Crounse and Alvin Tesch. The company initially manufactured lawn and garden implements; rakes, hoes, shovels and the like. An opportunity knocked on Mound Metalcraft's door in 1947. (Does opportunity really only knock once?) Approached by Streater Industries, Inc., another local manufacturer, Mound Metalcraft, Incorporated was offered the opportunity to manufacture steel toys, as envisioned by Edward C. Streater, son of L.E. Streater. Tooling was soon purchased from Streater Industries that would become Tonka's model #100 Steam Shovel and #150 Crane and Clam. To learn more about Streater Industries and their steel steam shovel CLICK HERE. Tonka Toys was on the map. Although the Tonka Toys name appeared on all products manufactured by Mound Metalcraft from 1947 on, Mound Metalcraft, Inc. did not change its name to Tonka Toys, Inc. until January 3, 1956.
Following the introduction of the Steam Shovel and Crane and Clam were a myriad of different models. Oh, the first two toys produced went through various color changes over the next few years, but then different models of pressed steel toys began to be manufactured. If Tonka wanted to compete with the likes of Buddy L, Marx, Nylint, Structo, Wyandotte and others, they had to diversify their model offering. To that end, Dump trucks, Wreckers, Semis, and Box Vans all made their initial appearance prior to 1955.
Now here is some pretty good news for all you Tonka truck fans. Tonka trucks was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame, located within the confines of the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York. on March 28, 2001. The National Toy Hall of Fame recognizes toys that have achieved longevity and national significance in the world of play and imagination. Tonka trucks proudly joins 35 other innovative and creative toys such as Silly Putty ®, Slinky ®, Mr. Potato Head ®, Lincoln Logs ®, Barbie ®, the Hula Hoop and the Frisbee. Congratulations Hasbro and Tonka!