The British Toy Business: A History Since 1700
At its height British toymaking was a significant industry, with famous names such as Britains and Meccano known throughout the world. While in essence a specialised form of small-scale engineering, its products and market have always been unique, reflecting the current priorities of both parents and children. Yet, while individual toys and marques have been catalogued extensively, no previous history of toymaking as a whole exists. The British Toy Business provides a fascinating example of the development of a specific industry.
Many early early toys were home-made. From the eighteenth century, with its growing recognition of children as something other than small adults, date the beginnings of specialised toys, usually produced by small workshops and sold by street-sellers. The nineteenth century, with its industrial growth and middle-class prosperity, saw an expansion of toymaking.
The 1960s and 1970s were the most successful years of British toymaking, with companies like Lesney making record profits. Yet British toy makers failed to solve a number of fundamental problems. Following an unexpected sudden downturn in sales at a time of high interest rates, the major names in British toy making, Lesney, Airfix, Mettoy and Dunbee Combex Marx, all collapsed between 1979 and 1985, leaving the business to be dominated largely by importers.
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