VINTAGE KITS ANNEX 5
Note: Part Two covers the history of the Strombeck-Becker Manufacturing Co. in the postwar era. The history through World War II, Part One, may be opened by Clicking Here. This link is repeated at the bottom of the page and in the left hand column.
Many new kits were issued by StromBecKer as the decade of the forties moved to a conclusion. The first ones after the war were of improved design though didn't incorporate much in the way of extra detailed parts on the smaller model types. Several pre-war kits were in the 1947 catalog according to Walt Grigg (see below) - the PBY and the Boeing 314. The Lockheed P-80 kit , C32, (later changed to F-80) continued the 1:72 scale size that started with the wartime spotter kits. The P-80 had a clear plastic bubble canopy (the only plastic part) and this type canopy became standard for additional fighters in the 1:72 series. This model had no landing gear but a wood and wire stand was provided, becoming standard for the jet kits. Wood parts such as tip tanks were nicely turned. The biggest improvement was the incorporation of water-release decals for markings and details. The P-80 insignia were printed in the pre-1947 style. The 1:72 scale B-29, Kit No. C250, and the P-61, Kit. No. C33, also appeared in the early postwar period. The photo below shows a Strombecker display booth at a model trade show in about 1946; the show is probably in Chicago. Of particular interest is the fact that all six of the wartime recognition model kits are on display along with black built-ups. The B-29 kit is the featured item and Charles "Chuck" Rowell, Sales Manager for the east coast, is holding a P-61.
One clue as to which kits StromBecKer was offering immediately following WW2 can be seen in the kit listing below; this is from the National Model Distributors (Chicago) catalog from around 1946. Note that the C6 Boeing Clipper and the C8 Flying Boat (PBY) are listed right along with the C250 B-29. Also note that the spotter models, S25 Curtiss SBC4 and S26 Curtiss P40E, are also offered for sale by this distributor. Were these leftovers? It is evident that some of the preWW2 kits were being sold to dealers after the conflict. This is a rare listing of these rather diverse era kits from StromBecKer.
Train kits were carried over and new kits in HO gauge were issued throughout the 1950s. The Rock Island Rocket, Kit 1937, was typical of the 1930s kits that continued to sell after the war.
A full line of railroad kits were developed; the HO gauge Katy (M.K.T.) Box Car, Kit No. R-12, from 1948 is pictured below along with the printed cardboard side ("Authentic Trim Panels") typically used with the rr kits.
The first of the post-war train kits was the 2-8-2 Mikado in HO guage or 3.5mm=1 foot, Kit No. R1. This makes up into a very handsome locomotive and tender which is then the motive for all the railcar kits that followed. Metal couplers, trucks and wheels were not in the kit but had to be obtained if the locomotive was to be used for rolling stock. Wood trucks and wheels sufficed for display purposes and are included in the kit. The plan is dated 1948.
The same Mikado was used for the R-100 Freight Train kit which also included four cars in addition; the Tank Car, Refrigerator Car, Box Car and Caboose. The kit contents are shown below.
The StromBecKer kit number R210, shown below, is the Baltimore & Ohio "New Columbian" Streamliner in HO scale, a four-unit train including the power unit, diner and coach - a total of 44-inches in length.
A kit of the Baltimore & Ohio streamliner coach "Akron" is shown below; this kit number R213 is in HO gauge and is dated 1949. This kit was still available in 1958.
Kit R200 "Streamliner" is the "City of San Francisco," a four unit train, similar to the R210 shown above.
The StromBecKer Kit number 1831-GT of the DeWitt Clinton Train in "0" gage is a postwar version of the 1936 kit; the kit plan is copyrighted 1948. This four unit, 1:48 scale train measures 14" in length. Check out the number of individually cut wood parts, and all for $1.19 in the 1950s.
It is difficult to place the date of original issue for most of the kits as only a few have a copyright date printed on the plan and many were sold for two decades. Decal sheets usually carry a date on the back but that can be a reissue or reorder date since StromBecKer did not make their own decals. The 1:72 scale was adopted for most of the military aircraft models. The B24J, kit C76, and the B-29, kit C250, were 1:72 scale, 4-engine bombers These are superior kits with all the detail parts made of wood (including the landing gear struts for the B-29) with the single exception of the propellers which are plastic in these kits. The Northrop P-61 Black Widow, kit C33, is also a beautifully crafted kit with all wood parts except the plastic propellers. Both the B-24J and the B-29 kits came with small booklets from "The StromBecKer library of famous models." These booklets are copyrighted 1946. I would assume that the B-24J and B-29 kits hit the market in 1946 to be competitive with Testors who also had a 1:72 scale B-29 pine kit (and a B-17) on the market although the Testors were inferior in quality and detail to the StromBecKer models. Walt Grigg informs that the 1947 catalog includes the B-24 and B-29. The centerfold from the 1946 B-24J booklet is shown below along with a view of the kit.
The photos below show a handsome "built" B-24 which StromBecKer enthusiast Joe Rosenthal restored from a child-constructed model; disassembling the old models for rebuild can be difficult!
It is instructive to see who the people were that Strombeck-Becker considered to be their potential customers. Some, but very little, advertising was done in aviation and modeling publications and ads were also carried in Parent, Children's Activities and a Life toy ad . The full page ad below was carried in a November 1945 women's magazine - read that copy! Strombeck-Becker's photo budget must have been pretty low as the boy and his B-24 is the same as in the B-24 booklet. Not exactly a "turn on" for the potential adult hobbyist buyer is it?. However, Strombeck-Becker knew their market and sold wood kits when many others were going under.
Copy below picture: "Mother, you will help your son in a real creative way if you encourage him in the hobby of modelbuilding. Fingers grow nimbler, imaginations keener. He learns to be more patient. He plans big, creative things for Peacetime America as he builds...Your son will "go for" StromBecKer solid wood model kits...trains and planes...because they're authentic in detail, just like the real thing! You'll approve of them, too, because the parts come cut and shaped ready to assemble. No knives to cut his fingers. No messy chips or shavings. No assembly delay...Choose StromBecKer famous kits...for more fun for Christmas, and after! "
The Toy Yearbook for 1949, shown below, displayed toys that ranged from infants to "advanced childhood, 10 years, upwards," and made recommendations as to which toys were "The right toy for the right age." The StromBecKer B-24 and other model kits were cataloged on page 52. The StromBecKer model kits were aimed at youngsters and oldsters alike, "seven to seventy."
Some lightplanes in 1:48 scale (Swift 125, Swift 125 Seaplane, Piper Cub Super Cruiser and Seascout, Bonanza) were included in the early post-WW2 product lineup along with some civil airliners such as the Convair Flagship, C38, DC-3, C35, (1947) and the American DC-6, C36 (copyrighted 1947); these were all-wood kits with wire landing gear struts and stamped metal props. The Boeing B-47, kit C45, (1952) joined more of the early 1950s jet line-up with additional 1:72 scale fighters, the Chance Vought Cutlass, C49, the Sabre Jet F-86, C44, the FJ-2 Fury, C46, the Lockheed F-94, C43, and the Republic F-84, C47. One experimental airplane, the Douglas Skyrocket D558, kit C42, was isssued.
An interesting and rare use of the StromBecKer DC-3 kit is shown below. StromBecKer kits were occasionally used as promotional items or premiums and packaged in special boxes which in some cases included special items particular to the advertised agency or company. The James H Franklin & Associates organization of Atlanta was involved in promotional material, particularly airplanes; mention is made of this group in association with plastic airliner model kits in mailer boxes in the 2003 John Burns compilation, Plastic Aircraft Kits of the Twentieth Century (and Beyond). John writes, "Sometime in the mid-1950's, this firm marketed airliner kits in plain brown, one-piece mailer-type boxes with decals. These could have been airline promotional items or gifts but nothing more is known at this time. Only one kit has been confirmed thus far, the ex-Hawk 1/126 Convairliner with Braniff decals. Value is 125-up." The StromBecKer Bonanza Airlines version has the standard StromBecKer DC-3 kit contents, including the plan showing American Airlines, but has a special Bonanza Airlines decal, dated on the back with "3-55." The mailer box and the special decal are pictured below.
Tom Kalina is a professional pilot and an Artist Member of the American Society of Aviation Artists (ASAA); Tom specializes in oil paintings of 50s airliners and his work is outstanding and has won many awards. Tom built the 1947 StromBecKer kit No. C36 of the Douglas DC-6 and this beautiful effort is shown in the photo below. He added the prop discs which create a dynamic mode.
The Hobby Merchandiser ran a 4-page article on Strombeck-Becker. The club program is explained as follows by a company executive: "The recently renewed Captain Jet and Strombecker Model Makers Club 'is cleverly planned to make every boy who builds Strombecker sell his pals and bring them into your store,' explains Charles Rowell, manager of the playthings division." (July 1953).
The counter display shown below is from the same period.
The photo below is taken from a newspaper in the early 1950s and pictures two of the early principal executives of Strombeck-Becker, R.D. Becker and George Strombeck, the enginering genius of the company.
The Captain "Jet" promotion for the StromBecKer Model-Makers Club was the subject of a 1953 comic book-style handout available at kit dealers. The story line is shown below - note that some adults are shown on the cover, but the story centers only on the target youth who, in the end, receives the approbation of his father and "Mr. Jones at the bank." The center six pages are a catalog of models which is not reproduced below. Note that there are no girls in this piece.
There is a B-47 featured in the first panel of Captain "jet" (on his table). Kit C45 is a very nice model of the Boeing Stratojet in a large 1/9"=1' scale; the kit came out in 1952. The B-47 box is shown below along with two photos of the StromBecKer dealer promotional model.
The Captain "Jet" promotional material was issued by StromBecKer in an Action-Packed Promotion box for the dealer to use. Photos of the material are shown below.
The Douglas Super-6 Clipper , kit C48, represents the DC-6B of Pan American, the "Clipper Priscilla Alden." This kit featured plastic props. An updated "China Clipper", kit C51, of 1955 kept the nostalgic "first airplane kit" of StromBecKer's in stock with updated shaped wood parts and with the addition of plastic props and of course, the water-slide decals which featured Pan American Airways markings. The kit is also shown in detail below.
The China Clipper Kit C51 was dated 1955. The kit was a complete change from the original A51 kit. The fuselage is one piece and has corrugations and the hull is stepped; the wing is properly shaped and the nacelles are finer. The two-sided plan is a finely detailed rendition of the airplane. The photos below show the revised parts of the C51 kit on top and the original A51 kit on the bottom. This kit has proven to be difficult to find - perhaps fewer were manufactured as the wood kit business slowed down by 1955 - note that the China Clipper kit in plastic, and in the same scale, came out only two years later so it is doubtful that this C51 kit was produced for more than a year or so.
This StromBecKer kit of the Cutlass F7U-3 is in 1:72 scale and features a clear canopy and a wire stand - it was issued in 1953 as the last of their jet line.
Click on the F7U Cutlass picture below and view the StromBecKer sell sheet for the "new" kit from 1953.
StromBecKer sold Counter Displays (CD) for many of their kits; the display would consist of a built and painted model, a base, and a display card which fit into the painted base. One display is shown on this page for the B-47 kit. A counter display for the F7U Cutlass, Kit C49, is pictured below along with the box that it was packed in. Some larger window displays which showed airplanes, trains and various parts could be rented from StromBecKer - a traveling window display for special promotions.
The kit box shown below is sort of a StromBecKer oddity, the first of this sort that I've run across. An "Official Construction Kit" of the Boy Scouts of America, this kit of the Cutlass F7U-3 is specially numbered 1679-G. The fanciful box top shows the entire StromBecKer jet fighter fleet, including the Douglas Skyrocket, in an air race, complete with checkered flag, pylon and grandstand. Since the F7U-3 kit came out in 1953, this Boy Scout kit came after that date. The contents are the standard Cutlass kit.
The entire StromBecKer wood airplane kit line for 1953 may be viewed by clicking the B-29, C-250, below.
Joe Rosenthal built the B-29 shown below from a "wreck." The model is finished in the "out of the box" style using StromBecKer components, including decals, from the kit.
As mentioned above, plastic wheels and redesigned toy trains appeared in the later 1950s. A portion of a StromBecKer brochure, "All Aboard! for the biggest train value in railroading history! It's Strombecker's brand new PLAY TRAIN PACKAGE," is shown below along with the StromBecKer logo for their toy line. Five different "Playtrains" were offered.
Here are several more StromBecKer whimsical wood toys from the 1950s aimed at the preschooler.
The photos below depict a phonograph player which uses the 45 RPM records. The nameplate on the portable player reads, "Strombeck Becker Model 6010." This is a post WW2 piece, yet the logo or manufacturer's name of Strombeck Becker was not normally used at the time 45 RPM records were fashionable. I have not found any contemporary advertising or catalog information for this item but it must have been manufactured for StromBecKer. The photos are from an eBay offering. Any information on this player would be appreciated and comments added here.
The Lockheed XFV-1 V.T.O., kit C50, appeared in 1954. This is a particularly nice kit with a lifting-lid box and which has about one-half of it's parts made from plastic and represents the interim period before StromBecKer jumped into the all-plastic kit hobby field. Note that the box proclaims, "Plastic-Wood Solid Model." Also, it was in this time frame that the capitalization of "BecKer" was omitted in the logo and changed to "Strombecker" - this alteration may have been to de-emphasize R.D. Becker's role in the company as will be noted later in this story.
R.D. Becker comments on the kit business during the crucial 1952 through 1955 years. "The model kit business continued with ever-increasing sales, with a peak sales record of over three million kits sold during the year 1952. Our regular line of toys continued with moderate success, but did not keep pace with the accelerated sales of model kits". This trend did not continue however, as he further states, "During the years 1953 and 1954, the trend away from wooden model kits and the increasing popularity of plastic kits became quite apparent, with an accompanying loss of total sales. During the years of the wooden model kits their sales appeal had increased to the point that their sales accounted for more than 50% of our total production. During the years 1953 and 1954, sales on model kits practically passed out, and it was evident that in order to maintain our leadership in the model kit industry, we would be compelled to enter the highly competitive plastic model kit field.
"At the stockholders' meeting of April 21, 1955, it was reported that the year 1954 had been the most difficult one in more than thirty-five years. The plastic kits made by competitive companies were now available in large volume and at competitive prices, and had caused a loss of 75% of the model kit business since 1952. This had caused a substantial loss, the first in thirty-seven consecutive years, and in the light of this, a decision was made to add plastic production to our facilities. The necessary equipment was purchased and installed, and some of the kits we produced were quite well received. Tooling costs for plastic kits proved to be very high, and in order to properly amortize the heavy die cost, it was necessary to attain a very high level of sales on each item for which we tooled. We also found ourselves in a highly competitive field in which we were the newcomers, without the years of know-how. Consequently, in spite of a fair volume of sales, the years spent in the plastic field were not successful when measured in profits, and we find the President's report of 1959 showing a deficit of $85,394.44."
The B-17F kit, C77, came out in around 1955 and was advertised as a "great new plastic and wood kit." No idea why they chose the "F" model since all of the parts are different than the wartime spotter B-17E - therefore the tooling must have been different. A number of plastic parts were incorporated such as cockpit windows, crew canopy, turrets, nose, landing gear struts, engines and propellers. This must have been the "last hurrah" for the wood/plastic kits as subsequent new ones were all-plastic. A "window" was in the lid so that the detailed plastic parts could be seen - a pretty good indication that wood use was on the way out and plastic was being emphasized - or at least promoted. A very nicely drawn and detailed, two-sided plan. The decal photo below shows that the decal sheet for this kit of the "Yankee Doodle" features the post-1947 insignia for this WW2 airplane! Details of the C77 kit are shown below. Box is a large 16 3/8" x 6 3/16" x 1 1/2".
The StromBecKer Model Makers Club was promoted on the 1955 B-17 plan. Note the age group of the "President."
A very nice built B-17 model from the C77 kit by collector Jim Hensley is shown below. In my opinion, that model is just as visually satisfying as any of today's plastic kits.
Succumbing to the plastic boom, as mentioned,the first all-plastic StromBecKer kit was the Navy XF2Y-1 Sea Dart, kit no. D25, which came out in 1955. On the original kit plan, StromBecKer has the following comment: "Another 'first' faithfully reproduced in the Strombecker model, this time in plastic." The kit is very simple as the plan shown below indicates. Note, for example, that there is no "glass" in the cockpit windows. The scale is 1:60. An historic kit because of it's "first" status, the original Sea Dart kit brings a fairly high price - the die for the Sea Dart was secured by Rare-Plane Detective in the 1980s and a limited number were reissued in a plain box.
A late 1950s catalog, The Hobby Guide, carried the phrase, "A happy family is a hobby family," on the front cover. A variety of hobby toys, kits, games etc. were included along with the page shown below which features the StromBecKer Sea Dart. Note that the picture of the Sea Dart shows cockpit "glass" whereas the kit does not include cockpit glazing. Also on this page are two StromBecKer items, the "Bill Ding" clowns and a "Fit'n Fun Shapes" set for the "wee members of the family." StromBecKer had all the bases covered.
Note that the STROMBECKER logo changed sometime between 1957 and 1958 - compare the box logo of the Sea Dart with the logo on the TT-1 box below. It was at this time that StromBecKer continued to attempt marketing the wood kits (probably from inventory) by adding new packaging by placing the kit contents in plastic bags which could be easily displayed on hanging boards. A F-86, Kit No. WB44, is pictured below with the later logo which dates the kit as being 1957 or so; the price remained at the original 69-cents. These bagged kits are seldom seen.
The 1957 edition of the Modelbuilder's HOBBYCRAFT Cyclopedia carried a full page listing of STROMBECKER (new logo) wood airplane kits, 22 of them. You can view this page by clicking here. This page of models would give you a complete collection for the 1957 production year.
The plastic kits became more sophisticated as demonstrated by this 1958 kit of the Temco TT-1, kit D36, in the "Pin-Up Box Cover" - the graphic of the airplane on the lid could be easily removed and a clear plastic shield underneath retained the kit parts. A quality kit in 1:42 scale that later was made by Aurora from leased molds in 1962. The 1958 dealer sell sheet for the Temco TT-1, "Newest in a great bull's-eye line," can be viewed, and printed out, by clicking here.
The "China Clipper", Martin M-130, which had been the first wood airplane kit, A51, and a post-war updated wood version, C51, was issued in a plastic kit version, D31, in about 1957 and for some reason, the same scale of 3/32"=1' was retained (nostalgia?). The plastic D31 kit is shown below. A full-size StromBecKer plan of the "China Clipper" can be viewed by clicking here.
The advertisement for the D31 "China Clipper," shown below, is from the reverse side of a sales sheet for the Temco TT-1 kit D36. Click on this ad for a view of the entire "All-plastic assembly kits" offered by StromBecKer around 1958.
StromBecKer introduced a line of scale, rubber-powered plastic flying models made from vac-u-formed thin styrene in an appropriate color for the airplane. The de Havilland U1-A Otter, kit FM-24, had a wingspan of 14 3/4" or 1:48 scale and came out in 1957 (shown below). About sixteen kits were in this 1957-1958 flying series, some rubber, some gliders (jets). Two full-page ads from Flying Models, an introductory ad in August 1957 and another ad in August 1958, are available in PDF form by Clicking Here.
The first of the polystyrene flying models was the Piper Pacer, kit FM-1, dated 1956. Counter displays were offered by SromBecKer for many of the flying models. The display consisted of a built-up model from the kit along with advertising banners. A boxed counter display for the Piper Pacer Kit FM-1 is shown below; note the the printed information on the box mislabels the kit as "MF-1." The model is nicely built.
The polystyrene, vac-u-formed Piper Pacer Kit FM-1 is displayed below. This flying model is in 1:24 scale with a 14 1/2 inch wing span. The box art for this kit was painted by the well known illustrator, author and model airplane designer, Cal Smith.
Interestingly, StromBecKer made a commercial model set for the Kruehler "Smart Set '59" Furniture company. The photos below show a boxed set of the 1959 furniture.
Walt Disney's Man-In-Space Model Kit, D26-100, was issued in 1957. Designed by Wernher von Braun, the fourth stage is in a delta wing configuration. There is an excellent full page color photo of Heinz Haber with the Disney XR-1 studio model this kit is based upon on page 270 of the August 1955 issue of National Geographic. Von Braun's ship is a true classic of '50s spacecraft engineering. The first issue of StromBecKer's kit was in bright yellow styrene plastic. The second issue, D-26A was gray-green styrene plastic. Issued in the UK as "Spaceship," Selcol kit #500. Decals and instructions for StromBecKer D26 incorrectly show the wing markings as "RX-1" instead of the correct "XR-1." Kit photos shown below along with a built model.
The front side of the instructions for D26/D26A unfold into a wall poster (see above for portion). The D26 kit has a full color box as seen above. Walt Disney's Disneyland Rocket To The Moon Model Kit, D27-100 was used as a Disneyland theme park attraction for Tomorrowland. This passenger carrying rocket is marginal in terms of being a true aerospace design. The first issue of this kit is in a purple and yellow "monochrome" box. The second issue, D27A, was renamed "TWA Moonliner" and had a full color box.
Walt Disney's Space Station Model Kit, D32-100. Designed by Wernher von Braun. This doughnut-shaped station utilizes nuclear energy for on-board power. The kit cleverly duplicates the supporting guy wires by including a small spool of thread to string between the hub and the outer ring.
Walt Disney's RM-1 Rocket Ship Model, kit number D34-100 was issued in 1957. Designed by Wernher von Braun. This was planned as an orbital recycling job, built around the fourth stage of the "Man-In-Space Ship." The ship was intended to carry a crew of four, was propelled by chemical engines burning hydrazine and nitric acid, and had a lance-like extension at the front of the ship containing a nuclear reactor for onboard power. Included with the kit is a detachable "bottle" spacesuit with a figure.
Some toys were made for Walt Disney Entertainment and plastic kits of space ships were introduced which were based on the Disney movie "Man in Space." The kit pictured below is the Satellite Launcher, kit D35, which was also designed by the German rocket scientist, Wernher von Braun. Kit number D35-100 came out in 1958. This ship was intended as an alternate use of the "Man In Space Ship" launch vehicle, designed for lofting satellites and putting cargo into orbit. In the "Man In Space" film, it is seen with "CR-1" markings on the top stage. What's unusual about this kit is that it is done in clear acrylic plastic, and has paper cut-out inserts to represent the arrangement of internal fuel tanks. It includes a small Sputnik-like satellite and a removable nose cone. A D35A kit version was issued in 1959.
Many of the StromBecKer kits feature box art by Cal Smith. Three gift sets using StromBecKer space kits were issued. These are cellophane wrapped with a printed banner. Each includes three kits. No. 713 contains D26A, D27A, and D34; No. 714 contains D32, D34, and D35A; and No. 715 contains D37, D38, and D39. All are extremely rare. All of these space kits are valuable collector items today and demand prices in the hundreds when complete. Glencoe now owns the StromBecKer molds for the space line and began reissuing them as part of Glencoe's "Blueprint for the Future" series.
Cover page of a ten-page, fold-out catalog from around 1958. Each page featuring a genre of kits, both wood and plastic. For wood kits: "Combat Jets", "Famous Aircraft","World War II Fame", "Commercial Planes", "Private Planes", "Fighting Ships", "Famous Trains", and for plastic: "Plastic Flying Models" and "Plastic Models" showing the Sea Dart, X1B, Man in Space Ship and TWA Disneyland Rocket.
Strombeck-Becker had an exhibit of space kits and flying models at the Hobby Industry Trade Show and Convention in Chicago in February, 1958. In attendance at their booth 58-59 were Charles Rowell, Ray Carlson, Ed McKelvey and Larry Sandberg.
Also in 1958, the "Modelbuilders' Hobbycraft Cyclopedia," an accumulation of product lines from just about every hobby manufacturer, has a page devoted to Strombecker wood kits with the title, "Solid Wood Kits Develop Skill and Craftmanship." This one page has a complete listing of every Strombecker wood airplane kit available in 1958. You can view this catalog page by clicking here. Additionally, in the same catalog, there is a listing of Strombecker rail kits as shown below. Catalog pages are also devoted to Strombecker plastic kits and plastic flying models.
StromBecKer hit the plastic model car kit market in 1959 with a line of 1/24 scale, injection-molded plastic cars which had the option of being equipped with an electric motor; the motorized car came with an onboard battery box so it could be run free style using a ratchet-held steering arrangement. The motorized version was also recommended to be used on a tether (with slip ring) which allowed the car to rotate around a pylon containing larger "D" cells (Pylon Kit No. D48) which powered the car in lieu of the onboard batteries. The 1/24 scale cars were listed in a 1959 catalog; it is possible that they were introduced earlier, yet I have not found any information to confirm that and, most telling, is the fact that the 1958 Dealer's Price Sheet does not show any car kits to be available. Note, below, that some of the cars were based on the 1959 model year.
With extensive molds and tooling dies, the car kits must have taken many months to develop. The car kit line in 1/24 scale included; D40, the W196 Mercedes-Benz 1955 Formula 1 #6 Racer; D42, 250F Maserati Racer #34; D44, Jaguar 1953 D-Typekwith motor, D45 without; D46, '32 Ford Hot Rod Roadster; D51, Go-Kart; D52, D50 Lancia-Ferrari 1956; D54, MG-A 1959; D56, Austin-Healey 1959; D62, Scarab 1959; and D64, Aston-Martin 1959. All of these kits were also issued without the motor and gears; the Racer Motor and Gear Set, D49, could be purchased separately to convert the no-motor kits. The motor was made by the Japanese firm of Mabuchi Motors and was reported to be of higher power than the competitor's Scalextric.
The Maserati kit D42 is shown below along with the D48 Power Pylon kit.
The D42 kit was also packaged in a small mailer box, 4" x 6 1/2" x 1 1/2", and used by the Autolite company as a premium; the box reads, "Here is your Grand Prix Racer Kit from Autolite." The same D42 StromBecKer plan is included.
The June 1959 issue of American Modeler carried an article on the annual hobby-models industry trade show held in Chicago and had this to say about StromBecKer's exhibit: "Strombecker almost stole the show with their beautifully detailed, electric powered race cars. The first two released will be the Mercedes-Benz and Maserati. These kits will come with electric drive unit and without electric drive unit and are set up to run on a tether in a circle." At this point, the StromBecKer race cars were not slot cars, but they were soon to be incorporated into the new sensation, Model Electric Road Racing, or slot cars.
The British firm of Tri-ang Scalextric brought out a true slot car set by mid 1957; Bertram "Fred" Francis of MiniModels (Tri-ang)created a Maserati 2 1/2 Litre and a Ferrari which were shown in January 1957 at the Harrogate International Toy Fair.
The following short history of Scalextric appeared in the Union Jack, "America's only national British newspaper."
"The Hornby Company currently makes the Scalextric slot car racing products. Scalextric came from the Scalex brand on Minimodels Ltd., which was a clockwork powered race car system that first appeared in 1952. Their inventor, B. 'Freddie' Francis, showed Scalextric (Scalex plus electric) cars at the annual Harrogate Toy Fair in 1957 in the UK. In 1958, unable to meet demand for their popular range, the parent company was sold to Lines Bros Ltd, who operated as Tri-ang. Their subsidiary Rovex, which specialised in plastic, then developed Scalextric, converting the metal cars to the easier and cheaper to mould plastic. The track, which was originally a rubber compound, became molded plastic at a later date. Production continued at Minimodels in Havant, Hampshire until 1967, when it moved to Rovex's own site.
"When Lines Bros collapsed, their subsidiary Rovex-Tri-ang, which handled Scalextric and the Triang railway brand, was sold off, eventually becoming Hornby Railways."
The current Hornby line can be viewed at www.scalextric.com or www.hornby.com. Freddie Francis' widow , Diane, of Birdham, West Sussex, has the first Scalextric set, made in 1957; you can view photos of this first set by clicking here. Use the back arrow to return.
The December 1957 issue of Sports Cars Illustrated published an article about a Scalextric/Triang slot car set that author Bob Coogan had found at Polks Hobby Shop in New York City. This was the first use of the slotted track; Lionel had previously sold rail cars which used a single, raised track.
The first StromBecKer slot car sets were probably marketed around the end of 1959 or early 1960 and they were the first U.S. manufactured slot car sets. The set incorporated a 7-inch wide, 2-track arrangement using dual brass strips arranged adjacent to the "slot." The cars were the same 1/24 scale kits as detailed above but which had an added, clever nylon guide shoe attached to the steering mechanism with a 2-pole brass pickup to feed the Japanese motor. These first sets were the "H" series - the number following the "H" pertaining to the number of race cars included in the set. By the end of 1960, there were many manufacturers jumping into the slot car market begun by Scalextric in 1957.
The "H" sets used various combinations of the "D" series 1/24 scale cars mentioned above. No new 1/24 scale cars were brought out following the introduction of the "H" sets, with the exception, perhaps, of the Scarab and Aston-Martin. Interestingly, the cars used in the sets were simply the basic car kit which had been previously been sold as the tether car; each car came with the same instruction sheet that was used in the single car kits. However, the set had a thorough Model Electric Road Racing Instruction Guide which detailed how to assemble the cars and adapting them to track racing.
You can view and print out the complete guide to set H2 by by clicking here. Use the back arrow to return.
A portion of the instruction sheet for the D Jaguar, D44, found in set H2, can be viewed by clicking here.
Photos are presented below of an H2 "Model Electric Road Racing Set" which has been well used by youthful race car drivers but adequately preserved for our inspection over 50 years later. The race cars have had a few off track experiences but all the parts and pieces of the original kit are included along with a number of spare parts. This is a genuine, first generation StromBecKer slot car set; the true StromBecKer-manufactured slot car sets will carry the Moline, Illinois address. Also, note that the handgrip control is a wood turning - appropriate for Strombeck-Becker Manufacturing.
Some of the set's race cars are pictured below. Obviously, there is some major restoration work to do before these beauties get back in action. The front ends of the StromBecKer cars were a weak point, but fortunately many spare parts were made available. A new body shell is shown for the D Jaguar.
StromBecKer also sold accessories and repair parts for the cars (much needed following rough "driving"). The accessory item, H12, Lo Volt Motor Brushes, was sold in a blister pack and is pictured bleow, as new. The back of the pack shows pictures of eight racing car kits and installation instructions for the brushes.
Gear Assortment H18 pack provided two sets of drive gears.
Lo Volt Motor pack H11 provided a spare motor.
Slot cars became popular in the 1960s and commercial tracks (usually in hobby shops) sprouted up all over the country - it is estimated that there were 3,000 to 5,000 commercial tracks. At its peak, the slot car business was a $350 million dollar industry. This popularity ebbed in the 1970s and many of the companies went out of the slot car business and most tracks folded.
As outlined near the end of this web page, the Strombeck-Becker Company was experiencing severe financial problems by 1960 as the wood kit business fell off to nearly nothing precipitated by the heavy competition of the plastic kit industry. StromBecKer's entry into the plastics business was unsound as competition had much better marketing abilities and a broader line of product. At the Strombeck-Becker directors meeting of October 24, 1960, it was decided to sell the toy and kit line as a going business, and by March 17, 1961, the tooling, including the road-racing sets, was sold to the Dowst Manufacturing Company of Chicago along with the trade name, "Strombecker." These corporate decisions are important when viewing the slot car business of StromBecKer during the same time frame. While strategizing to sell off the slot car line, Strombeck-Becker was busy developing a follow-on line of 1/32 slot car sets.
The Saturday/Sunday, March 1-2, 2014 issue of the Wall Street Journal carried a 2/3 page article on "toy race cars" entitled "Little Juiced Coupes." The lead paragraph in this article mentions that in 1912, "Lionel adopted the system that powered its locomotives to create a pair of dueling Stutz Bearcats, the slot car has been a staple of the great American toy box." These Bearcats undoubtedly ran on rails similar to the trains. Four modern versions are described including the Carrera Digital 124 Race Deluxe which uses the same 1/24 scale as the early StromBecKers.
The Moline-manufactured, 1:32 scale Strombecker slot cars have eluded the collecting prowess of CollectAir. Fortunately, slot car historian and collector, Philippe de Lespinay, has kindly provided some photos and information concerning the 1/32 cars and the late-in-the-game development of Strombecker's racing sets just prior to the takeover of that product line by Dowst in 1961. Philippe is authoring a book on slot car history which should be of great interest to any collector of these sets and cars. You can explore Philippe's massive model car collection by clicking here. Use the back arrow to return to this page. A huge compendium of slot car information may be obtained at the Slot Car Museum by visiting the museum. This Los Angeles museum is owned by slot car enthusiast Scott Bader and Phillipe is the curator and historian.
Strombecker's first 1/32 racing set from Moline was designed using two 1955 Jaguar "D" Type cars; the car was molded with a one-piece body of white plastic which fit onto a universal chassis equipped with the same Mabuchi 3-volt motor that had been mounted in the 1:24 scale cars. These initial "D" Types were plain with no windshields or headlight covers and were packaged in simple boxes. Later, the cars were molded in red or pale blue, equipped with clear plastic parts and the packaging was changed to illustrated boxes. The Strombecker ad shown below appeared in the October 1960 issue of "American Modeler" magazine. Note that the factory is listed as being in Moline, Illinois and that this ad ran concurrently with Strombeck-Becker's corporate decision of October 24, 1960 to divest itself of the toy line! The ad mentions that the cars are "1/32 scale" and are powered with a "6-volt power pack" which suggests that Strombecker engineers were "boosting" the 3-volt motor a bit. The same issue of the magazine shows the Strombecker 1/32 set alongside a competing set from Aurora - Strombecker was experiencing competition as the article states that, "the model race car field, especially electric powered 'tracked' autos, is busting out all over."
The first 1/32 Jaguar "D" Type model is pictured below, courtesy of Philippe de Lespinay.
Although slot car experts may not recognize early versions of electric race tracks because the tracks did not have actual "slots" to hold the cars, the 1930s did produce some interesting race sets. The Märklin Autorennbahn of 1934 track may be seen in action. Of American interest, the famous Louis Marx & Co. came out with a two car Marx Streamline Electric Speedway in the 1930s. The set consisted of a double track, including a bridge, a transformer and rheostat speed control for the electric Shooting Star cars. This set is quite rare. I'm not certain how the cars picked up the current but it appears that there are two "rails" in which the car runs. In any case, this set certainly predates by many years the late 1950s "invention" of the slot car. The Marx set came with an instruction manual entitled, "Electric Double Track Speedway With Rheostat." Some photos gleaned from recent auctions are shown below.
I have a most interesting Louis Marx "toy" from the 1930s which is a blatant, but cheapened, knockoff of the British FROG Mark IV Interceptor flying model. Although the box for the "ROGA" model has the Marx label and address, the model itself, along with two instruction sheets, have no reference to Marx, only to "The Manufacturer." The name "ROGA" stand for "Rising Off Ground Aeroplane", also a knockoff of the "Flies Right Off Ground" FROG logo. The aluminum body of the ROGA is similar to the FROG, only cheapened by not cutting out the cockpit as on the Interceptor. There is no winding mechanism for the ROGA and the instructions say to wind 258 turns by hand winding. This Marx copy of the FROG Interceptor is also quite rare and doesn't show up in lists of Marx toys. Perhaps there was a patent problem somewhere along the line.
You can view an interesting Gilbert Auto-Rama Layout TV ad from 1962 by clicking here. A.C. Gilbert sold the Auto-Rama 1:32 scale slot car set from 1961 to 1965.
This web page's interest in the original StromBecKer slot car product line ends with the March 1961 sale to Dowst of Chicago; most "Strombecker" slot car info and sales that you see today are for the product manufactured by Dowst in Chicago. Only the Moline, IL line, manufacturered for only a short time, is the authentic StromBecKer.
The Scarab car kit, D62, shown below is an interesting example of the transition from StromBecKer of Moline to Dowst in Chicago. The box plainly states that the kit is "Made in U.S.A. by Strombeck-Becker Mfg. Co., Moline, Illinois"," yet the plan title heading states, "Strombeck, Division of Dowst Mfg. Co., Chicago 24, Illinois," also with a "Srombecker" logo. This use of "Strombeck" associated with Dowst as a division is probably a misprint as Dowst did not purchase the "Strombeck" name, only "Strombecker" - some confusion in the ranks at Dowst! Note that the box side also states that, "Adaptable to STROMBECKER road racing track." Apparently Dowst purchased the existing boxes and parts and reprinted the plan to indicate Dowst. Did this kit originate in Moline or Chicago during this 1961 change in ownership?
I believe that some slot cars were 12-volt powered. It is for that reason, I suspect, that StromBecKer's "H" set control transformer was a "dual-volt" transformer with a switch that could be set on "Lo Volt" for the StromBecKer 1/24 cars using 3-volts or set to "12 Volt" for others (or for certain StromBecKer cars?). The 1/32 car set advertised in 1960 used a 6-volt power pack so that set must have been incompatible with the "H" sets. Does that make any sense? The H2 set box lid gives a good clue. It states: "A Strombecker "dual volt" transformer provides the right power for the Low-volt Strombecker motors, as well as 12-volt motors." This certainly implies that the track can be used for other than StromBecKer cars.
The accessory blister pack, originated in Moline and shown with several accessory items above, was maintained in its design format following the sale to Dowst. A generic version eliminated the name of the accessory presented and the priced was stamped. The photos below show a Dowst blister pack with a "12-Volt Heavy Duty Motor," part number 9089. This motor wouldn't fit in the original 1/24 Moline cars and the Moline 1/32 cars were 6-volt. If this 12-volt originated in Moline, it could be the reason for the 12 volt position on the original transformer for set H2.
Oddly, Dowst, under the trade name "Strombecker Road Racing," produced a tether car (series?) in 1/24 scale using the same design principal as the first StromBecKer cars (2-piece body, motorized with no chassis). The cover page for the 1/24 scale Lotus-Ford and Pylon kit can be viewed by clicking here. This kit was used as an advertising premium and mailed in a plain box. The pylon is a plastic box using "D" cells.
Another boat kit, the Electric Speed Boat, came out around 1960 also. Note in the photo below that the Strombecker logo matches the watercraft printing above. This speed boat was packaged in an inexpensive peg board hanging style cardstock backing with plastic wrapping the parts. A molded plastic was used. This kit has no identifying number; assembly instructions are on the back.
30 ft. Pelican Class Auxiliary Sloop scale model. StromBecKer made an all-plastic, one piece hull racing sloop with an overall length of 26 inches and a height of 3 ft. 6 in. This sailing model also was equipped with a propeller and shafting. This model, Kit B1, sold for $24.50. Click on the flyer below for a full size, two-page color sales brochure for this kit. A previous sales flyer for StromBecKer plastic kits displayed a price of $27.95 for kit B-1.
The StromBecKer Pelican 30' Auxiliary Sloop is a magnificent kit from the maker of wood toys and wood kits of ships, airplanes, trains etc. This kit came out in 1956 and wasn't widely advertised as far as I can tell. Priced at a whopping $24.50, it is understandable that it probably wasn't a popular hobby shop item - a dealer could stock a lot of less expensive kits for what this beauty cost. A huge box measuring 28" contains the very nicely molded one piece hull and all the components, most made from mahogany. A full size sail plan is included - in the kit pictured, the original owner expertly sewed the sails from the sail cloth provided- - the result looks professional. This kit cries out "build me."
As in any company of long standing, many corporate changes occur - some which the company wishes to publicize, others which don't make it into newspaper articles. The death of one founder and concurrent retirement of the other gave control of the company, in 1959, to the second generation, F.K. "Freddie" Strombeck.
Along the corporate way, J.F.'s son Fred K. ("Freddie"), born in 1922, joined the firm and became vice-president (1943). R.D. Becker's brother, T.H. Becker, was at one time the CFO/Treasurer of the company and another brother, Paul, also became part of the firm as Sales Manager in the 1930s but died in a railroad accident in 1938. Correspondent Loree Paulson offered the following information about this accident (note her further comments in the "Comments" section below): " This was the famous New York Central Twentieth Century Limited wreck on the Horseshoe Curve in PA. He had been to the New York City toy show. My Dad worked in New York City and they met. Another Company person or persons were there (a Strombeck or Becker?). This other person was flying home, but Paul Becker refused to fly because it was too dangerous."
J.F. Strombeck died in 1959 (on a train while returning from a trip to Seattle for a Young Life board meeting)resulting in F.K. assuming duties as President and General Manager. Designer Andrew Bergstrand's son Harold became the chief designer by 1953 and they worked together on model projects. George Strombeck's son Vernon became a major stockholder in the company when George died, and Vernon later became president and chairman of the board, replacing Fred K. who died in 1972 (see obituary below). R.D. Becker's brother T.H. Becker continued as Company treasurer until his retirement in 1959. When J.F. Strombeck died in May,1959, there were undoubtedly some repercussions within the management and groundwork laid for change - and some bad decisions. But this corporate/family succession list is getting ahead of our story.
J.F. Strombeck was a devout Christian, as was his family, and his sound business ethics, allegiance to the Moline community, and devotion to children's toys were probably related to his religious beliefs (my guess but I'm betting it's a good one). J.F. walked the walk in his belief, and over the course of the years (centering around about 1940), J.F. authored five extensive books on the subject of salvation - and this was while he was an executive of Strombeck-Becker. His books have been kept in print for years with reprints that I've found as late as 1991. Several quotations are offered from reviewers and publishers below to give you an idea of the man who was half of the team behind those kits that we enjoy collecting.
J.F.'s nephew Vernon started a religious bookstore in Moline and ran Strombeck Press or Strombeck Agency, Inc. which printed J.F.'s books in the 1950s. As mentioned above, Vernon later became president of Strombeck Manufacturing Co. Whoa! - you say, where did that corporate name come from - I thought it was Strombeck-Becker Mfg. Co.
Different sources each tell part of the story but hesitate to put it all together - so here goes my compiled version. Strombeck-Becker Mg. Co. did drop out of the toy business in 1961; their toy line (mostly slot cars) was sold off for a pittance (but not the unpopular wood items). R.D. Becker "elected" to retire in 1959 and retained a seat on the board of directors. He received a $20 radio as a gift for his 48-years of dedication! Note that R.D.'s brother, T.H., was also retired in that same year. Apparently because of differences in management policies with the President, R.D. submitted a letter in February, 1961 resigning his seat on the board and declaring that he had disposed of his corporate stock in the company. At the same time, the company name was changed, eliminating the "Becker" and the corporate name became Strombeck Manufacturing Co. Vernon Strombeck stated in his interview for Swedes in Moline, Illinois that the plastics business and competition in the 1950s brought on "hard times." He said that they were $500,000 in debt and broke in 1962. Vernon borrowed money and paid off bills himself for the sake of the family name and kept the company afloat, though barely. The toy line sale in 1961 was insignificant and didn't help their financial situation at all in 1962. Vernon did not say anything about R.D. Becker's departure from the company, nor anything about his cousin, Fred K., the company's president.
Strombeck Manufacturing Co. didn't sell the wood kit line as part of the Cosmo/Dowst deal as far as I can tell - only the trademarked name "Strombecker" and all of the plastic line. Probably as a means of bringing in some income during the "hard times" of the 60s, they produced a batch of jet kits, D-558, Sabre and F-94A, for Bersted's Hobby-Craft of Monmouth, Ill. (appears on the box only as "Bersted's")which were nicely packaged in sturdy lid boxes; decals in these kits indicate 1967. Since they had sold the "StromBecKer" name to Cosmo, these kits carried the "Woodline" label. These must have been the last wood airplane kits produced by the original company. Today these kits are valued less than the "real" StromBecKers, yet they are probably more historic. Railroad kits were also sold in plastic bags under the Woodline brand. It's possible that the Woodline kits were repackaged old stock.
The Woodline kits, by Strombeck Mfg., of the late 1960s, had a simplified plan which did not have the familiar coupon for parts replacement that the earlier StromBecKer kits had. Nevertheless, Strombeck Mfg. honored requests for missing wood kit parts until the late 1960s and had a large inventory of kits, doll furniture and parts. As collectors of StromBecKer kits today, one wants to cry when the disposition of all those kits and parts is revealed in the paragraphs below. Correspondent Michael Kelly tells of his employment at Strombeck Mfg.at that time of "house cleaning" of the factory.
Vivian Strombeck, mentioned above, was the older sister of Fred K. "Freddie" Strombeck (i.e. the daughter of J.F. Strombeck). Bud Becker visited her last in Moline in 1998 and she has since died. She was a close friend of Bud Becker's sister and in Bud's words, "a fine lady." Bud provided the photo below.
So who bought the toy line and why is there a company today ("today" being up to 11/1/04)with the name of Strombecker Corporation? It was appropriate that the StromBecKer toy line was purchased by the oldest toy manufacturer in the U.S. The company started as the National Laundry Journal trade paper in 1876 in Chicago, published by the Dowst Brothers Company. Samuel Dowst saw the new Mergenthaler Linotype machine at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago (sound familiar?) and found that it could manufacture the collar buttons etc. that Dowst was already making - it led to the manufacture of metal novelties and the first die-cast toy car in 1906, a Model T Ford. Charles O. Dowst's grandaughter "Toots" became the namesake for the now famous TOOTSIETOY in 1924. A Chicago businessman, Nathan Shure, owner of Cosmo Manufacturing Co., was making competitive products - in 1926 Cosmo bought Dowst and the Shure family has owned the line since then. Cosmo/Dowst bought the Strombecker toy line in 1961 and TOOTSIETOY became a division of the Strombecker Corporation. However, more recently, Strombecker, as a corporate entity, has finally vanished. It was announced on November 1, 2004 that the Strombecker Corporation and Processed Plastic Company have merged their two companies into a new entity, Tootsietoy Corporation. "The combination of our two great toy companies will strengthen our ability to bring out the best, and most innovative, new toys," said Dan Shure, president of Strombecker, and David Bergman, president of Processed Plastic, in a joint statement. This merger was destined to be short-lived.
Following on the heels of this merger, the latest in the checkered recent history of the Strombecker Corp. developed on July 15, 2005, putting to an end the name "Strombecker" on corporate rolls.
Nine months after merging with the then-oldest surviving toy company in America, Strombecker Corp.-Tootsietoy, Processed Plastic Company sold its intellectual property assets to J. Lloyd International of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, under the terms of a state liquidation auction.
The 129-year-old Strombecker was launched in 1876 and under the Tootsietoy line of brands included Hard Body die-cast and plastic vehicles, Mr. Bubbles, American West role-play and cap guns and Tootsietoy, among others.
"They were hoping the synergies of the two companies [Processed Plastic and Strombecker] would lift the two companies out of the doldrums-at least that was their theory," Wheeler (consultant who ran the liquidation auction) said. "Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. Sales didn't come in as they hoped they would and they ran out of cash."
J. Lloyd's principal, Jody Keener said, "We'll go forward with our sourcing to continue to manufacture and sell the product line."
Good-bye and farewell to Strombecker.
The slot-car products moved to Chicago in 1962 and you'll see the Strombecker Corp. address of 600 N. Pulaski Road, Chicago 24, Illinois on the Strombecker slot cars beginning in 1962.
R.D. Becker wrote the following which can be said to be the epitaph of the StromBecKer kit line: "At the stockholders' meeting of March 17, 1961, it was reported that due to severe losses in recent years in the plastic field, it would be essential to the Company's survival that this line be discontinued. It was recommended that an agreement be entered into with the Dowst Manufacturing Company of Chicago in which the model kit tools be loaned to Dowst, including the road-racing sets; that the name of the Company be changed from Strombeck-Becker Manufacturing Company to Strombeck Manufacturing Company, that the trademark, trade names, and good-will connected with "STROMBECKER" and "STROMBECK-BECKER MANUFACTURING COMPANY" become the property of the Dowst Manufacturing Company. It was also decided to sell all or part of all equipment for the manufacture of plastic parts." Note that R.D. Becker had resigned from the board and disposed of his stock just the month prior to the decision to sell the plastic toy line to Cosmo/Dowst. To an outside observer, there breeds therein some dissension with the management of the company! R.D. returned to the board in 1963 as operations almost ceased until Vernon Strombeck intervened with an input of funds. R.D. Becker died in 1965.
Frederick K. Strombeck died in 1972 at the age of 50. The following obituary is from the October 30, 1972 newspaper in Moline: Thanks to Donna Foster for the copy.
Our collector interest in Strombeck-Becker ends in 1961. I would appreciate information or any corrections or additions or experiences you may have had with the Strombeck family or the Strombeck-Becker company or StromBecKer models. This website is "alive" and can be fed constantly.
Note: In writing this, I became enamored with the triple capitalization, "StromBecKer", which became a trade-logo for the company. However, correctly, I should not have used this form after about 1954/55 when kits began to appear with "Strombecker", and then "STROMBECKER" for the last of the line. An interesting technicality.
This section will be devoted to reprinting comments from viewers of this website. Personal experiences with Strombecker or their models are solicited along with any related material. These comments are not in any particular order. If you would like to add your "Strombeckerania," use the Feedback link in left column.
"What a wonderful history you did about Strombeck - Becker! My great-grandfather, David Engholm (1890-1969), worked there for several years making sure the furnaces kept operating. He left a job at John Deere to work for Strombeck's ( name we always called them.) Also, my grandmother Shirley (Engholm) Anderson now age 90 and her two twin sisters worked there. I am not certain the years. My sister and mom would know more. They've been more active in that area.
"My family owned two houses on 49th Street just one block west from the Strombeck's building in Moline. One was torn down years ago. We just sold the last one last year (2004) after it having been in the family for some 80 years. My sisters and I have several of the Strombeck toys. Trains (one of them in it's original display packaging), several 'Bill Ding' connecting figures, etc. There were many great memories from those toys! Some toys we played with while others were kept in storage as collectables.
"One other interesting memory, at least to me, would be the smell of the smoke from the furnaces during the winter months. I remember extreme cold nights walking in the snow across the street to my grandparents house and seeing the smoke billow from the huge stacks. In those days (1959-65) that was the entire world for my sisters and me. In 1965 my folks moved to East Moline, but my grandparents kept their house at 223 - 49th Street. Again, thank you for the wonderful history!"
The above memories of Strombecker elicited the following comments in July of 2006 from Donna Foster: "What a small world. I was just fishing around the internet for Strombeck information and came across this website...only to find out my brother, Gerry Marr, had left some comments. I can add to his story that we grew up on playing with these toys and still own a few (even lucky enough to have a couple boxes intact). As he stated our great grandfather, David Engholm worked there along with his daughters, Shirley Anderson, Lorraine Cannell & Virginia (Linnie Lee) Swanson. I believe the girls all worked there when it was Strombecks, while Grandpa Dave was Strombeck-Becker. I am pleased to say that I have his work badge with the employee #260 on his picture. Also a 5 & 30 year pin. What sweet memories of our childhood toys that I now let my own granddaughter play with...just goes to show you the quality that was put into a Strombeck trains!!! Granted there are a few that are just "for looks" so that they can be passed down another generation or two! Thanks for the website...there are still some of us out here that appreciate where the toys came from...I'm sure if you have a train out there on your shelf, chances are one of my family members had something to do with it."
Bud Becker has responded to this recollection of David Engholm by his great granddaughter as follows:"I knew David well. He was a wonderful man and a more faithful and loyal employee the company never had. The factory was heated and somewhat powered by the burning of sawdust from all the machines. I can remember Dave coming into the Boiler room (where I always ate my lunch) and struggling with the system as burning sawdust presented all kinds of problems."
Rodney "Bud" Becker also offered these comments as part of a communication in October 2005. "A couple of months ago, I made contact with another part of this history. You reference George Strombeck (who was the engineering genius of the company) and his son Vernon, who took over late in the game. It turns out that some of our good friends here in Minneapolis have a daughter that married Vernon's daughter's son. (Note: Correspondent Scott Nagel has written that Sharon (Strombeck) Nelson's youngest daughter, Katie, married him and they currently reside in Minneapolis) I knew Sharon, Vernon's daughter, when she was very little as I was several years older. Anyway, I met with Sharon not too long ago and we talked about Strombeck-Becker and the old days. I'm going to get her email address from my friends and have her make contact with your website. She may have some things to add or comment on, although she was quite small when all this late stuff was going on. I'm sure she heard things from her Dad, Vernon.
"Steve, I very much appreciated your referencing "Uncle Fred's" book on doctrines of the Christian faith. In the final analysis, perhaps Strombeck-Beckers mission in life was to establish the financial base from which he could not only write these works that have impacted millions of people, but also that the sacrificial giving by the founders, stockholders and employees of the company funded the incredible number of Christian organizations, churches and seminaries. Your treatment of this subject in fact and tone is very much appreciated.
"I enjoyed particularly seeing the pictures of the 'Strombecker Lines' trains. Both the larger and small ones are right in the middle of my bookcase here."
"Hello, I can add some more about Strombeck- Becker as requested on your web site. Your site was excellent/very interesting. Amazing what happens when you "Google"! Never knew what happened to the Company. As you will see, I had a personal interest from a young age.
"My Dad, Frank Oscar Paulson was born in Clinton, Iowa. His parents had come from Sweden and the whole town was Swedish then. My Dad's parents died at a young age for them and my Dad. This was about 1910, he was born in 1899. There were the Pierson's (maybe 20-25 years older than my Dad), 4 old maid sisters and a single brother that had known my Dad's parents. They raised my Dad on a farm outside of Clinton. He did OK, graduated with a BSME from Iowa State college and became a respected expert engineer in the dredging industry after teaching mechanical drawing at Iowa State.
"One (and the only one to marry) of the Pierson women married Fred Bergren (more stories about him later) of Moline, Il. So Fred was my "uncle". In some way he was related to the Strombeckers or Beckers. I remember going through the Strombeck Becker factory, I may have been 6 years old, but it really left an impression on me. Had never been in a place like that. Believe they gave me a set of "Bill Ding" that I still have. How do I peg this age?? Well my mother and I went from New Jersey to Iowa by train and weeks later my Dad came out in a new 1936 Ford. I was born in 1931. My mother had a fit because this new car had a Motorola radio in it and she said that you could not drive and listen to the radio at the same time. Well he had listened to the radio from New Jersey to Iowa and he plus the car were wreck free! But we did not listen to the radio driving back to New Jersey with my Mother!
"Then this next thing I remember very well and is reason I am writing this memo. The web narrative said that Paul Becker, the V.P. of Sales died in a train wreck in 1938. This was the famous New York Central Twentieth Century Limited wreck on the Horseshoe Curve in PA. He had been to the New York City toy show. My Dad worked in New York City and they met. Another Company person or persons were there (a Strombeck or Becker?). This other person was flying home, but Paul Becker refused to fly because it was too dangerous.
"I had many of the Strombeck Becker models, especially the war planes, trucks and tanks. My Mother gave them to a young neighborhood boy when I was in college and they moved. What fun those wooden models were!!
"Now to my "uncle" Fred Bergren. He made the first Buddy L truck! After World War I he worked for a company that made the truck cabs for International-Harvester. International Harvester asked for competitive quotations for a new design of truck cab. Uncle Fred was quite a tin smith and they asked him to make a model to submit with their quotation in the hopes of winning the business. Well the company lost the truck cab contract, but International Harvester ordered models of the truck from Uncle Fred's company. One was sent to every dealer as a sales tool to sell trucks. Well then the dealers wanted more and more models for their customers. So Buddy L was born.
"Uncle Fred proved that coffee will kill you!!. He was a good Swede and drank many many cups of coffee a day. Some through a sugar cube in his teeth, this was a Swedish thing! Well when Uncle Fred died, the family doctor (who knew Fred for many years) was asked what had Uncle Fred died from. The doctor said; "from drinking too much coffee!!!!!" Dangerous stuff this coffee!! And by the way Uncle Fred was 96 when he died."
He was interested in ground-effect machines at this time and visited with a Dr. Bertleson in Illinois concerning his research into this type of vehicle. Halvor developed a small ground-effect model using a .049 Cox engine and a plenum-style lifting device and he used the same impeller stamping that he had incorporated into the fan model. The model consisted of two vacuum-formed shells with the engine mounted on the lower shell. The model was "free flight" with no control. He showed the completed model to a representative from the Ramsey agency who then got Halvor in touch with Fred Strombeck just a year or two before the 1961 sale of the StromBecKer name and plastic toy business. Halvor went to Fred's office in Moline and demonstrated the ground-effect model in a hallway where it motored and careened through the office corridor. Fred was impressed and asked Halvor what he wanted for the project package. Halvor thought $700 sounded like a lot and, when proposed, Fred bought the model right there.
StromBecKer never went into production on the ground-effect model but Halvor got a contract to do some screen printing on some of the toy wood trains. Once out of school, Halvor began a business creating anatomical models for the chiropractic profession which he maintained for 30 years before retiring. He has built several ultralight airplanes and a Rutan Quicky I and continues to have an interest in radio-controlled models.
Return to Strombeck-Becker Manufacturing Co. history, Part One, by Clicking Here.
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