The real vintage hess trucks.

The gradual development of the fire department during the 19th century was clearly seen in toys designed on the same lines as the trucks and vehicles used by the early volunteer fire fighting companies. Similar to the full-size versions, the first miniatures were rather rough. Fallow’s made a toy fire truck pumper of stenciled tinplate that was nothing more than two barrels joined at right angles — highly basic and rough. Early fire fighting toys by Brown and Ives were equally primitive. However, in the 1880s more refined forged iron fire-fighting trucks and equipment were relased. Ives manufactured a matching set of 5 forged iron fire vehicles — pumper, hose carriage, hook and ladder truck, fire patrol, and chief’s wagon. Other major producers of fire-fighting toys were Carpenter, Hubley, and Pratt & Letchworth. Horse-drawn fire-fighting toys continued to be manufactured well after 1900, although by then most communities had converted to collectible automotive vehicles.

The most diversified types of antique toy fire trucks come from a line of cast iron toys vehicles. Thousands of types of manufacturers existed, yet these were the last cast iron playthings to appear on the market. The manufacture of the forged iron fire wagons ultimately ceased in the early 1900s.

Also widespread were such highly specialized vehicles as antique fire engines and police cars, trolleys, motorcycles, racing cars, and even collectible sprinkler trucks from the city streets.

The pumper was advertised as Fire Engine in a Hubley catalogue of 1922, when full-size pumpers were drawn by motor vehicles instead of horses. Hubley and other toy manufacturers also manufactured toys that combined a classic 19th-century-style fire truck pumper or other piece of fire-fighting tools with a truck body, an amalgam that resembled vehicles actually used by fire fighters of those day. Till date these are considered to be highly prized vinatage collectibles.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the fire patrol wagon transported members of the company and equipment like buckets to the scene of a fire. At other times, when no crisis threatened, it transported fire-fighters on rounds, enforcing fire laws in their district.

Few of the More Famous Manufacturers of Collectible Fire Trucks and Toys

Dent Hardware Co. — Henry H. Dent formed the Company in 1895, and made his first cast iron toys in 1898. The firm first made horse-drawn fire wagons (fire trucks to you and me), then followed them up with many versions of other vehicles. During the 1900s, Dent’s die-cast toys slowly replaced those of forged iron.. }

Hubley Company — Established by John Hubley in about 1894, the Hubley Company made forged iron toys. Its earliest products were trains and trolleys powered by live steam, electricity, or spring mechanisms, but they later also added horse-drawn fire trucks and wagons in the 1920s. By 1940 Hubley had transformed into the world’s biggest maker of cast-iron toys. Hubley gradually changed to die-cast toys made of a zinc alloy owing to increasing freight charges and international competition.

Kenton Lock Manufacturing Co. — Kenton Lock Manufacturing Co. was established in the early 1800’s and in 1894 became the Kenton Hardware and began producing cast-iron toys. Horse-drawn vehicles, fire engines, nodding toys, and comic strip characters were some of the best known toys of the company. “Kentontoys” was a trade name that the company sometimes used.

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