The airplane, cash register, starter-motor and numerous ubiquitous inventions were born in Dayton. But while the Gem City is widely recognized as a hub of innovation few people realize this creative spirit impacted the toy industry as well.

“Around 1910 Dayton started to become a toy hub,” says Dick Cummings, co-author of The History of Dayton Ohio Toymakers, “and by 1920 we were the nation’s largest producer of sheet-metal toys. The old cast iron toys would break and become
 useless. Sheet-metal would bend, but you could bend it back. They caught on like crazy.”

On April 9, 1918, in the city’s official annual labor review, it was reported that, “Dayton is rapidly being recognized as the center of the (toy) industry in the United States.” With more than 220 toy-related patents originating in Dayton the city’s toy making heyday lasted through the 1920s. But when the Great Depression hit much of the fun came to a halt.

“People could barely afford food,” says Cummings, whose extensive collection of rare and valuable Dayton toys is on display at Carillon Historical Park. “They certainly weren’t buying toys.”

With the holiday season upon us here are four components of Dayton’s renowned toy story:

Israel Donald and Edith E. Longstreth Boyer patent “Dayton toys” (1897)

In 1897 the husband and wife team of I. Donald and Edith Boyer patented a flywheel mechanism and incorporated it into a heavy sheet-metal floor toy. Known as “Dayton toys,” these highly collectible artifacts revolutionized the toy industry.

D.P. Clark & Co. (1897–1909)

David Parker Clark, a former Miamisburg clothier, sold his business and entered the toy industry alongside I. Donald Boyer. Opening shop as D.P. Clark & Co. in 1897, the partners were the first to produce the famous Hill Climber toy locomotive.

A former NCR draughtsman and lifelong inventor, I. Donald Boyer died on Jan. 17, 1900, age 41, leaving behind a toy legacy. In the years to come, the Boyer patent became the cornerstone of numerous Dayton toy companies: The Schieble Toy and Novelty Co., Dayton Friction Toy Co., John C. Turner Novelty Co., Republic Toys and others.

Dolly Inc. (1923–2008)

Founded by Henry Holtvoigt, a former DELCO pattern maker, Dolly opened shop in 1923 as a kite manufacturer. Near 1926, the Curtiss Candy Co., makers of Baby Ruth candy bars, hired Dolly to manufacture a 24-inch kite emblazoned with the Baby Ruth logo—a prize offered for collecting a certain quantity of candy wrappers. After entering the toy market the company saw another boon when Walt Disney Enterprises licensed Dolly’s Climbing Mickey Mouse toys in 1934. Through the years, Dolly continued to work with Disney, Jell-O and numerous other companies.

The Miami Wood Specialty Co. (1922–1939)

Founded by Wilbur and Orville Wright’s older brother, Lorin, and his son-in-law, Harold Miller, The Miami Wood Specialty Co. is acclaimed due to Orville’s involvement. The world’s first pilot’s last patent was awarded on Jan. 25, 1925, for Flips and Flops, a toy that launched a small wooden clown through the air to swing from a trapeze. 

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