back


A History of Pre-War Automotive Tootsietoys
by Clint Seeley
edited by Robert Newson

Part 5 - Grahams, new Mack trucks and other 1933 issues

Clint Seeley's original text is in green, and my editorial additions are in blue.
Put your mouse over the thumbnail images to see the picture caption, and click on the thumbnail to enlarge.


The year 1933 saw the world-wide depression well advanced, with many industries facing financial disaster, national economies continuing to decelerate, and world politics entering a period of transition and growing central power, often at the expense of individual and corporate freedom.  While the nation and the world were confronted by the gloomy downward spiral of their economies, in Chicago the makers of a popular ten-cent toy were enjoying ever better annual sales figures, as the demand for more expensive toys diminished.  Indeed, the 1933 catalogue of the Dowst Manufacturing Co. was the most opulent and inclusive of the entire series.  By that time the firm had been in business in one form or another for more than half a century, and in the business of making small die-cast metal toys for a generation.  They had invented the die-cast miniature (not strictly true - see part 7 of this article) and had compiled an impressive list of firsts, though they may not have been aware of the historical significance at the time.

With so rich a tradition of innovation, it should have been no surprise that the 1933 catalogue would introduce several further novelties.  Rubber tyres made their bow, being standard on new issues and made available as options on earlier models still available with metal disc wheels.  Models with rubber tyres were designated by catalogue numbers beginnlng with 0, this figure being added as a prefix to rubber-shod versions of older numbers.  Where rubber tyres were an option, this is indicated in the listing (parts 8 & 9 of this article).

The 1933 catalogue:
1933 catalogue cover1933 catalogue, page 11933 catalogue, page 21933 catalogue, page 31933 catalogue, page 41933 catalogue, page 5
1933 catalogue, page 61933 catalogue, page 71933 catalogue, page 81933 catalogue, page 91933 catalogue, page 101933 catalogue, page 11
1933 catalogue, page 121933 catalogue, page 131933 catalogue, page 141933 catalogue, page 151933 catalogue, page 161933 catalogue, page 17
1933 catalogue, page 181933 catalogue, page 191933 catalogue, page 201933 catalogue, page 211933 catalogue, page 221933 catalogue, page 23
1933 catalogue, page 241933 catalogue, page 251933 catalogue, page 26

A black and white photocopy reproduction of this catalogue is available  from Rus Rich: http://www.antiquecatalogs.com/.

Another change was the substitution of the harder zinc alloy called Zamak for the older lead formula.  This resulted in a much stronger casting, but led to a problem of slow oxidation if there was any lead contamination in the metal.  When this occurred, a gradual expansion and disintegration took place, often miscalled "metal fatigue", an all too familiar phenomenon.  This malady afflicted relatively few Tootsietoys made for a few years after the changeover, and has not been the catastrophic epidemic that has wiped out so many of the Dinky and Marklin toys of the same era.  I do not know the source of the problem in Europe, but at Dowst it usually happened this way: when lead alloy had been the order of the day, employees often tossed scraps of foil into the melting pot, and many a crumpled liner from a tobacco package lies hidden harmlessly in older lead toys.  When this habit carried over into the age of Zamak, it was a different matter, and the seeds of ultimate destruction were sown.  The firm became aware of the problem after a year or two and discouraged the practice.  Prior to that it was sheer chance if a batch got through safely, but most later old Tootsietoys are as sound today as when made over thirty years ago.  The problem recurred when metals became scarce just before and during the Second World War.  l am told that it is safe to assume that a casting is essentially lead-free if it appears sound by the time it is about ten years old, but the rapidity of disintegration seems to be proportional to the amount of contamination.  So don't panic and dispose of healthy old Dlnkies in fear that the future may kill them.


Tootsietoy Grahams

Graham Sedan, rearmount spare wheelGraham Sedan, sidemount spare wheels (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)Graham Convertible Sedan, rearmount spare wheel (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)Graham Convertible Sedan, sidemount spare wheelsGraham Coupe, rearmount spare wheelGraham Coupe, sidemount spare wheels (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)

Graham Convertible Coupe, rearmount spare wheelGraham Convertible Coupe, sidemount spare wheelsGraham Sedan and Coupe without spare wheelsGraham Coupe, no spare wheels (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)Graham Roadsters showing the open or closed footwell in the dicky seatGraham Roadster, rearmount spare wheel (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)

Graham Roadster, sidemount spare wheels (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)Graham Town Sedan, rearmount spare wheelGraham Town Sedan, sidemount spare wheels (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)Graham Wreck Truck & AmbulanceGraham AmbulanceGraham Army Ambulance (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)

Graham Wreck Truck (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)Graham "Tootsietoy Dairy" VanGraham "Commercial Tire" Van (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)De-Luxe Motors Set (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)Bild-a-Car Set - 1933 issue (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)Bild-a-Car Set - later version with the Tyre Van (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)

Graham Sedan (no spare wheels) from the Bild-a-Car SetGraham Sedan (no spare wheels) from the Bild-a-Car SetComponents of a Graham Coupe from the Bild-a-Car SetGraham Roadster (no spare wheels) from the Bild-a-Car SetGraham Roadster (no spare wheels) from the Bild-a-Car SetTaxicab Set, containing Graham Sedans with no spare wheels (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)

Graham sedan, possibly a dealer promotional (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)Boxed Graham sedan, possibly a dealer promotional (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)
The new models in 1933 showed a greater sophistication of design, and a greater accuracy of line, proportion and detail, both in the new Macks and the most famous Tootsietoys of all, the 1932 Grahams.  A new catalogue numbering system was also introduced with the Macks and Grahams, a bit too complex to detail here.  Careful study of the comprehensive list at the end of this series will unlock the mystery, but a few remarks might prove helpful.  "Convertible" models were merely the same castings as closed models, but with their tops painted khaki, often resulting in a three-toned colour scheme.  No Graham passenger cars were ever shown without spare wheels except in boxed sets (such as the Taxicab set illustrated), so the fact that many such models exist is a small mystery.  The Graham commercials were given numbers in sequence with the new Mack trucks, segregating them from the passenger cars.  The 'Commercial Tire' van was not numbered, as it was only available in boxed sets 5300 'Tootsietoy Motors' (1935) and 5360 'Bild-a-Car' (1938-9).  Also, as different colours were used in later years in some instances, the ratios in which they were boxed for wholesale marketing do not seem to hold up in surviving collections.  There is further confusion because of the multiple combinations made possible in the 'Bild-a-Car' sets, in which five bodies and five chassis were interchangeable by means of divided axles, held by clips in the centre.  Collectors have muddled it further by restoring models with still other colours.  There are also many minor variations of castings, involving all parts (body, chassis, grille, wheels), which baffle me and are thus declared beyond the scope of this run-down.

I am still asked from time to time about certain models which never existed.  These include: town car without spare wheels, breakdown truck or panel van with side spares, touring car, station wagon (estate car), and mail van.  Any such that you may encounter are the product of choppers, children, or charlatans.

The Graham sedan shown with an individual box is possibly a dealer promotional (note the wheels in body colour).


New Mack Trucks

Tootsietoy Mack Contractor SetTootsietoy Mack Contractor SetTootsietoy Mack Tractor from the Contractor SetTootsietoy Mack Long Distance Hauling Truck - first castingTootsietoy Mack City Fuel Truck - first castingTootsietoy Mack City Fuel Truck - first casting

Tootsietoy Mack City Fuel Truck - first casting but with only four wheelsMack City Fuel Truck - first casting but with only four wheelsMack City Fuel Truck - second castingMack City Fuel Truck - second castingMack Oil Tanker - second castingMack Oil Tanker - second casting

Mack Dairy Truck - first castingMack Dairy Trailer Set - first casting (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)Mack Dairy Trailer Set - second casting (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)Mack Stake Truck - first castingMack Stake Truck - first castingMack Stake Truck - second casting

Mack Stake Truck - second castingMack Railway Express Truck - first castingMack Railway Express Truck - first castingMack Railway Express Truck - second castingMack Railway Express Truck - second castingTootsietoy Mack Auto Transport - first casting (rare)

Tootsietoy Mack Auto Transport - first casting (rare)Mack Auto Transport - second castingMack Auto Transport - second casting, with box (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)Mack Auto Transport - 1941 version (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)Mack Auto Transport - 1941 version with offset coupling

De-Luxe Trucks Set - 1933 issue (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)De-Luxe Trucks Set - 1934 issue (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)De-Luxe Trucks Set - 1934 issue (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)Interchangeable Truck Set (second castings)Interchangeable Truck Set (second castings)
The other major feature of the year was the new, larger, Mack truck series.  These featured closed cabs, headlamps, and well-defined bumpers and running boards.  During the first few years they were made with separate cab and chassis castings and were fitted with dual rear tyres on both tractor and semi-trailer.  These were replaced in 1936 by one-piece tractors and single rear wheels.  Some half-way hybrids were apparently sold during the period of change-over (see the photo of the CITY FUEL truck above, also note the patent numbers added to the first-type chassis).  The tractor for the dumper train never had dual tyres, and remained the first type two-piece casting until discontinued in 1941.  The LONG DISTANCE HAULING closed cargo semi-trailer was discontinued after 1936, so is seldom seen in the second type.  (Does it actually exist?  Please e-mail me if you have evidence of this version!)  The CITY FUEL COMPANY coal truck was issued in a handsome ten-wheeled version in 1933, but reduced to four wheels in 1936 and dropped after 1938.  The economy version must have been a sales dud, as one is seldom so unlucky as to gaze upon this ugly descendant of the handsome first version; like the roc, it is a rara avis which only the most devoted purist is happy to find.  The oil tanker carried the fictional DOMACO oil company name - a contraction of Dowst Manufacturing Company.  The TOOTSIETOY DAIRY tanker was issued in dual-wheeled semi-trailer form, and was also available with two full trailers hooked behind the semi-trailer and with no dual wheels on this version (neither on the tractor nor the trailers).  The RAILWAY EXPRESS AGENCY van with the Wrigley Gum decals on the sides was the popular introduction of 1935, changing to the second type casting the following year (both had single rear wheels).  On the second type, there was also a small change in the body casting, a horizontal crossbar being added to the vertical slats of the gate at the rear.  The car transporter was the first type casting only in its first year, 1935, loaded with 1934 Fords.  This is now a rare creature, and I've never seen one intact, though I have seen one of the tractors.  I have been luckier than Clint and have a complete example, pictured above, which came with 1935 Fords, believed to be original.  The tractor is identifiable by a higher coupling post than the other Mack tractors, and also by the single rear wheels and yellow chassis.  It changed to the second type, carrying 1935 Fords, in 1936.  It changed form again in 1941, when the stamped tin rear was redesigned to carry three up-tilted cars of the 1940 "230" series.  The high trailer with forward overhang required another modification of the coupling post, there being a backward bayonet offset to allow clearance between trailer and cab upon making sharp turns.

Graham boxed set - Chicago World's Fair souvenir (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)Mack Stake Truck - first casting - Chicago World's Fair souvenir (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)Mack Stake Truck - first casting - Chicago World's Fair souvenir (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)Mack Stake Truck - first casting - Chicago World's Fair souvenir (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)Mack Long Distance Hauling Truck - first casting - Chicago World's Fair souvenir (photo by Lloyd Ralston Gallery Auctions)These pictures show special issues produced for sale at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933.


1933 was also the only year in which the GM series cars were issued in the "no-name" version, the whole GM line dropping from the catalogue the following year.  These continued to be cast in lead rather than zamac, as was true of most of the other hold-overs.  The older dies probably continued to be used with lead for some technical reason, possibly related to the higher temperature of molten zinc.  This may also explain why so many older numbers were discontinued after 1933.

Thus, we bring to a close the chapter dealing with the prolific year of 1933, which surely must go down as the high point in diversity and innovation.  ln the following parts we will go on to discuss the 1934 and 1935 Fords, the "Jumbo" or "Torpedo" series, the LaSalle/Lincoln/Doodlebug group and a few related pieces.

Part 6

© Robert Newson