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Playskool Manufacturing Company - Lehman Brothers Collection

Playskool Manufacturing Company

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The Playskool Institute was founded in 1928 by Lucille King. King's line of toys consisted of basic, durable wooden items that aimed to develop coordination and stimulate the minds of children. By 1930 Playskool produced more than forty different toys, including a pounding bench, wooden beads and blocks, a table-mounted sandbox, a pegboard, and others. Playskool Institute's slogan was "Learning While Playing." Another slogan the company used was "Playthings with a Purpose." As early as 1930, Playskool's toys were endorsed by child guidance experts, and the aura of educational enrichment clung to the brand.

Playskool Institute first operated as a division of the John Schroeder Lumber Company. In 1935 the lumber company sold the division to a Chicago manufacturer, Thorncraft Inc. Thorncraft next sold Playskool to Chicago's Joseph Lumber Company in 1938. The company was renamed Playskool Manufacturing Company.

Playskool began advertising in magazines for sophisticated consumers such as Parents, Redbook, and Psychology Today. Some of the early Playskool toys were deemed to boost a child's intelligence, or at least to prepare children for intelligence tests. Playskool also extended its line of educational toys by acquiring other manufacturers. In 1943 the company bought the J.L. Wright Company, manufacturer of Lincoln Logs. Another essential Playskool purchase was that of Holgate Toys in 1958. Holgate was a Philadelphia woodworking company that specialized in utilitarian products such as broom handles and brushes until the 1930s. Holgate branched out into a line of toys, which were designed by Jerry Rockwell, artist Norman Rockwell's brother. Holgate produced some enduring toys, such as a cobbler's bench, stacking rings, nesting blocks, pegboards, and lacing shoes. After Playskool purchased Holgate, Rockwell went on to create the Tyke bike, an enduring favorite that is still part of the Playskool line. Another important acquisition was that of the South Bend Toy Manufacturing Company, which Playskool bought in 1960. South Bend had an established line of doll carriages and also made equipment for wooden outdoor games such as croquet and horseshoes. By 1960 Playskool's sales were nearly $12 million, which was considered respectable in the notoriously difficult and unstable toy business.

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