Lincoln Toy Factory
has been documented as far back in history as ancient Egypt. Whether
it be fine art, beanie babies or sports cards, collecting has moved
from being a small time personal obsession to a billion dollar industry-thanks
to the internet.
One passion that has the potential to tell a lot about ourselves
is the collecting of toys. It is within the annals of toy collecting
history that we find the story of Walkerville's own, "Lincoln Specialties",
or as it was more commonly known, "Lincoln Toys".
local company's products, almost fifty years after it's demise,
have become sought after by toy enthusiasts all over the world.
In fact, one collector notes the average "Lincoln" toy can fetch
$100 to $600, depending on its condition. Before you run off
to check the old toy box in the attic, read on to discover a fascinating
history of a home grown business made good.
by father and son team, Haven and Fredrick Kimmerly (who at the
time resided at 2448 Gladstone and 1009 Windermere respectively),
the business made its first appearance in the Windsor city directory
1941, the Kimmerly's and close family friends, the Lynn's, amicably
split their small metal stamping business, LK Metals, into two companies.
The Kimmerly's opened "Kay Manufacturing" at Lincoln & Erie,
while the Lynn's carried on as LK Metals. The two companies remained
connected, with Kay Manufacturing making components for some of
LK Metal's products, such as gas heaters, in addition to their own
product line which consisted (in part) of fireplace covers and stove
is a saying that when paraphrased, states that: "There is nothing
better for the economy than a good war." With the Second World War
raging in Europe, the Canadian economy was slowly rising out of
the last grips of the Great Depression.
was good for Kay Manufacturing; they received an official government
contract to build ammunition boxes and fenders for the Canadian
Army. The Kimmerly's made a decision to change the business name
to "Windsor Steel"; they also diversified the range of their manufactured
products. These new products included bicycle carriers and kickstands
as well as the now ultra-collectible steel "Coca-Cola" licensed
coolers and automobile visors.
1945, the wartime economy had slowed down and Windsor Steel required
new products to replace the loss of the government contract. Although
their flourishing automobile products division, which included gas
tanks and mufflers was keeping the business steady, the Kimmerly's
required something that would put the business "over the top".
same year it was suggested that the company focus its direction
on the large post-war toy market. So, it came to be that Haven and
Fredrick Kimmerly set up "Lincoln Specialties" in 1946 in order
to market their new "Windsor Steel"-made commodity. The first offices
and showroom were located in the original Kay Manufacturing building
back at Lincoln and Erie and John Milner was hired as company president.
the very first "Lincoln" toy was actually a small wooden Jeep. This
mini Jeep was comprised of two halves connected by a single joint.
The joint allowed the toy to make smoother turns and handle more
wear and tear on the uneven surfaces on which so many children like
to play. This was also the only wooden toy ever marketed by Lincoln
of the first metal toys made by Windsor Steel for Lincoln were the
"817 dump truck" and the "No.54 Repeater Canon" which actually fired
small wooden cannon balls with the aid of a spring loaded
crank mechanism. The "Repeater" was also the first "Lincoln" to
appear in a major store catalogue, making its debut in the 1946-47
Eaton's Fall & Winter.
such a short time in operation, Lincoln Specialties, which also
handled the marketing of Windsor Steel's other products, began to
focus energy on their ever widening selection of toys.
1953 the selection had grown to over 24 different styles of trucks
in three different sizes and two different cab designs. This was
largely possible due to their close relationship with Harry Ellwood,
a Windsor toy maker who had relocated to Tilbury. Mr. Ellwood's
company, "Ellwood Toys" manufactured all "cab over" style trucks
marketed by Lincoln Specialties and would eventually purchase the
bulk of Lincoln's dies upon their closure.
included in Lincoln's toy roster were cranes, power shovels, several
variations of the Massey-Harris 44 tractor and other various farm
implements such as combine harvesters. One of Lincoln's most interesting
products however, was a toy airplane. Considered a rarity in its
time and even more so today, the plane featured the colours and
logos of the now defunct Trans-Canada Airways.
so many toys being manufactured, the facilities at 1701 Shepherd
could not adequately meet the storage needs of Windsor Steel. It
was about this time that the company designed its own warehouse
and showroom at 2892 Walker Rd. Built by Mark Glos, father of Windsor
architect Randy Glos, the building served as the home of Windsor
Steel until the company's eventual closure.
Specialties outgrew their Erie Street location within three years
and relocated to 1200 London (now University) Street, in the old
S.W. & A. streetcar barns. Both companies also maintained other
warehouses across the city of Windsor.
changed frequently for the Kimmerly families as well, with Haven,
his wife Minerva and their younger children living at 1175 Kildare
and 1192 Devonshire, and Fredrick, his wife Muriel and their children
residing at two locations on Willistead Cr. and at one point in
despite their succeses, both companies fell victim to the unstoppable
juggernaut of time. Increased foreign competition and unsuccessful
bids by Windsor Steel to win back automotive contracts abandoned
during the toy boom forced Lincoln Specialties out of business.
It made its final appearance in the Windsor City Directory in 1958.
Windsor Steel continued to operate in a limited capacity but closed
only a year later, dissolving officially in 1959.
Windsor Steel's closure, Haven's son, Edward T. Kimmerly maintained
the family's presence at Lincoln and Erie by continuing the "Lincoln
Casket Company", a business founded by Fredrick prior to the demise
of Windsor Steel. Eventually the business relocated to Sydney Street
before being sold to a larger casket company.
Haven's other child William (Bill) Kimmerly, with help from his
father, began Dayton Manufacturing on Crawford Avenue. Dayton
also relocated to Sydney Street, less than a block away from where
brother Edward's operations were conducted. They have remained there
ever since and continue to manufacture custom bathroom vanities
for major retailers like Sears & Roebuck Canada.
A. Kimmerly moved his family to the United States and eventually
returned to Canada where he launched Standard Printing, located
on University Avenue West where Ho & Wong's Chinese restaurant
now stands. The family-run business eventually returned to Walkerville,
moving into the former Studebaker offices at 530 Walker Road, and
relocating to 3500 Ontario in 1993 where they continue to serve
the public's printing needs, under the stewardship of Fredrick's
eldest son Paul, his wife Lori and their two children.
their successes and failures, the popularity of the Kimmerley's
metal toys remains highly appreciated by collectors and offers
us a whimsical glimpse back in time.
may leave for the attic now- happy hunting!
for Lincoln Toys at www.ebay.com