The Streater Connection
The toy that was the inspiration. The steel toy featured below is a No. 100 Steam Shovel, made by Streater Industries in 1946. This steam shovel, along with a crane and clam and the Streater line of wood coaster wagons and juvenile furniture items, were unveiled at the forty-fourth annual American Toy Fair on March 10, 1947 held in New York City. A February 13, 1947 column in the Minnetonka Pilot stated that " E.C. Streater, President of the company, made final arrangements for participating in the show." Streater Industries was truly looking forward to making their name known to the toy world and the business it would generate. However, according to R.L. (Dick) Streater, nephew of L.E. Streater "Edward's experience with the New York Toy Show and the people involved with it, turned him off the toy business and was the incentive to sell the business to Mound Metalcraft." In a November 22, 1953 interview with the Minneapolis Sun Tribune, Lynn Baker stated "He was lunching one day with Edward Streater of Streater Industries and the latter mentioned his Mound plant was for sale." Streater Industries was located in the old three floor Mound High School building. Baker, Crounse and Tesch not only purchased the Steam Shovel and Crane and Clam tooling, they also purchased the first manufacturing site for Tonka Toys. Mound Metalcraft was soon in the toy business manufacturing their first toy, the #100 Steam Shovel.
Under the direction of Lewis Edward Streater, Streater Industries began life as a chain of rural retail lumber yards in Minnesota. Prior to WWII, under the leadership of L.E. Streater's son, Edward, the company began manufacturing kitchen cabinets and restaurant fixtures. It was a natural fit with the lumber business. WWII slowed the development of the fixture business as natural resources were being designated for the war effort. Edward, began to explore other business opportunities and with the lumber yards as a building block, was successful in garnering a government contract to make ammo boxes to support the war effort. Manufacturing ammo boxes generated scrap and sawdust. Being the visionary, Edward's creative mind pictured making wood toys out of these by products at a time when steel was in short supply.
Following the sale of the toy tooling to Mound Metalcraft, Edward Streater began to formulate his action plan for taking the store fixture business to the next level....manufacturing and marketing a line of custom designed and installed, store specific retail store fixtures. Streater, Inc. is still in business today following through on Edward's vision.
Thanks to "Dick" Streater for contributing historical supporting documentation for this page. January 16, 2006
1946 Streater Steam Shovel
1946 Streater Decal as Displayed on
the Back of the Steam Shovel
Location of the Decal
Prior to exploring the potential of producing the all steel steam shovel pictured above, Streater Industries manufactured wood bodied replicas of the classic steam shovel of the era. The shovel featured below was manufactured in 1945, coincidently, the year of the webmaster's birth. Notice that the steel boom assembly is identical to the one on the steel bodied shovel featured above. Does anyone out there know the model number and possibly the quantity manufactured?
The 1945 wood bodied shovel featured below is from the Fred Carlton collection. The shovel is in such pristine condition, Fred was initially concerned it was a reproduction but purchased it from a local antique dealer on a hunch. He immediately called Tonka historian Lloyd Laumann to confirm, if indeed, he had made the correct decision to purchase the shovel. Per Fred, "I commented to Lloyd that the lettering, which appears to be stenciled on, looks so homemade that I thought it must be a reproduction but he said that's the way it was done (stenciled by hand).
Note the original (dirty) white cotton heavy gauge string.
Lloyd compared his original to mine and there were several key points that confirmed it was an original including the way the wood base of the cab is cut (notched) so the sides overlap, the use of a square headed stove bolt that attaches the cab to the base, the square nut on the bottom of the same bolt, the washer inside the cab to keep the string wrapping around the crank smoothly, the number of nail heads showing how the cab was attached to the top and base of the cab, etc."