This toy company developed out of a partnership formed by brothers Ben and Isidore Marks. The Marks Brothers Company began in 1911 as a major supplier of human-hair doll wigs and celluloid doll heads to American doll manufacturers. Over the next decade, the company prospered and added a vast array of other playthings to their product lines.
At the 1919 New York Toy Fair, the brothers introduced a new moving-picture machine that was greeted with great enthusiasm. This success prompted their decision to purchase the American Pictograph Company of Manchester, New Hampshire, in 1924. The combined companies were renamed the Keystone Manufacturing Company and relocated to Boston, Massachusetts.
Toy manufacturers of the day were quick to recognize new consumer markets. Keystone was well placed to take advantage of the rising popularity of the new entertainment medium. Keystone started with the production of motion-picture toys featuring Charlie Chaplin and Tom Mix films. Their Keystone Movie Graph machines were a big hit, as children were able enjoy the "moyies" at horne. Eager to take advantage of the prosperous American economy of the time and aware of their ability to take advantage of trends, Keystone noticed the increase in the number of toy autos being produced by their competitors. Keystone needed to establish itself with products that separated their toy autos from other manufacturers. The company decided to approach the Packard Motor Company and ask for permission to recreate and market trucks modeled after the popular Packard design. The request was granted, and the Keystone Packard Truck included the popular radiator design and logo.
The new truck made its debut in 1925, with Keystone advertising its special features. Each truck had a 22-gauge, cold-rolled steel body, nickel hubcaps and radiator cap, a see-through celluloid windshield, front cranks, headlamps, signal anns for "stop" and "go," steering capabilities, and for 50c extra, rubber tires.
The Packard Truck was so successful that Keystone's new product line came to rival the market leader, Buddy "L." One advertising campaign even guaranteed that a 200-pound (90 kg) man could stand on the toy without damaging it. All of their efforts paid off with a growth in sales and increased market share.
This popularity helped Keystone weather the era of the Depression. Manufacturing slowed but did not hinder the creative powers of the design staff. Striving to stand out in the market, Keystone released a Siren Riding Toy in 1934. This featured a saddle seat in the bed of the toy and handlebars in front for steering. The public's overwhelming response pushed the designers to create a ne,v, sturdy, and affordable riding toy. Two years later, Keystone released a new creation, the Ride 'Em Mail Plane. The toy was 25 inches (63.5 cm) long and sturdy enough for a small child to ride. Affordably priced at $2.00, the Ride 'Em plane was yet another major success for the company.
The Keystone Manufacturing Company went out of business in 1957.
What's your Keystone worth? Here are some recently sold items.
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