Thursday, December 08, 2005

Visit to the Schieble Toy Company Part 3

When it comes to early friction toys, patents and patent wars drove much of the development. Looking at DP Clark, Dayton and Schieble one will quickly see many striking similarities. The differences are a bit harder to detect. As history goes, well recapped in Lillian Gottschalk’s American Motortoys, DP Clark was the first to patent the friction toy with a partner whose name escapes me. A few years later, Schieble became a partner in the DP Clark operation. In the early 1900’s Clark left the company and Schieble began making his own toys under the Schieble Toy Company moniker. Just a few years later, Clark returned to toy manufacturing with the Dayton Toy Company and the lawsuits began. I’m not sure anyone is quite clear on who sued who but both Schieble and Dayton spent many years and a great deal of money fighting for rights to the friction mechanisms begun at DP Clark.

So, what does all this mean to the collector? Basically, it has caused a good amount of confusion when it comes to the identification of these three makes. One thing is for certain, DP Clark precedes both Dayton and Schieble toys and seem to range from the late 1880’s through about 1905. Dayton and Schieble meanwhile managed to make toy friction cars into the 1930’s.


DP Clark cars are easily identifiable due to a large squared off flywheel usually directly contacting both axles and the use of wood in the car frame. Most Clark toys have wheels closely set together (although this is not always the case as is illustrated in Gottschalk’s book.) The flywheel mounting mechanisms on these vehicles vary over time but the overall mechanical designs are very similar. The Clark mechanisms often function very well even 100 years later. My own cars all roll very smoothly. Indeed this is one of the most appealing aspects of DP Clark toys.

Dayton toys utilize a slightly smaller flywheel that connects to only the rear wheel through a more complicated rear mount with pressure wheels. These cars are completely made of metal. The friction mechanisms have not held up as well as the Clark mechanisms and are more prone to problems such as binding and drive mechanism slip.

Image from ebay seller opamerica

Early Schieble friction toys utilize a set of spoked third wheels which contact both the ground and the flywheel. While not as complicated as the Dayton vehicles, Schieble toys also suffer from alignment, binding and slipping problems with the friction mechanism. Later Schieble friction toys utilize a sealed friction mechanism located near the rear axle.

As a collector of these three toy manufacturers I find that all three created wonderful primitive toys that appeal to toy and car collectors alike. These toys illustrate the earliest days of the automobile from electric runabouts to gas touring cars. Additionally, they are unique in function. I have personally fallen in love with the DP Clark designs. They reflect a Victorian America about to enter a technological revolution unlike anything seen before. Indeed, these toys are time capsules of that age.