This pull toy has been on a shelf in my grandmother’s bathroom for as long as I can remember. I recently asked her about it but she doesn’t know anything about it except that it makes her smile. I’m hoping you can tell me who made it and it and what it’s worth.
I like your grandmother. The fact that this l toy makes her smile is the best reason I can think of for anyone having it! I smiled too when I saw the picture of this four man scull.
First of all, some rowing terminology. A group of rowers is called a crew: if a crew member uses one oar only he is called a sweeper; rowers who use an oar on each side are called scullers. The craft they use is called a shell. I’ve never seen a pull toy depicting one.
If you look closely at the front of the toy (remember, the rowers are facing the back) you’ll see a decal of what looks like a jumping jack. This is the logo of the Hustler Toy Company of Sterling, Illinois.
Hustler Toys grew of Franz Manufacturing. Franz, founded in 1909, made hinges, door tracks and other hardware; they really hit their manufacturing stride in the 1920s when they patented the up and over garage door to sell to the owners of all those new automobiles.
Sometime in 1919 Franz licensed technology from another firm and produced a line of toys. By 1925, Hustler Toys was formed as a subsidiary of Franz. Hustler Toys incorporated metal camshafts and rocker arms to give their collection of pull and push toys animated movement. Hustler dogs cats and horses pranced, pounced or plodded; Hustler delivery trucks dumped their loads; Hustler circus trainers made their elephants stand on hind feet. Hustler made more than 100 models of mechanically animated wooden toys.
Hustler did little direct to consumer marketing. Their catalogs are geared towards wholesale and department stores. Hustler’s 1932 catalog claimed that Hustler “Action Pull Toys have everything that it will take to sell toys this season – class – novelty – originality – popular prices.”
Hustler specifically did not market based on gender. Their catalogs and press releases describe “Toys for Girls and Boys.” and insists that these toys appeal to "children and grownups alike.” Most were priced at about one-dollar (at a time when a loaf of bread was 8 cents.)
I found a tremendous amount of information on Judith Lile and Jim Sneed’s website “Old Wood Toys.” It is a lovingly researched and detailed compendium of toy manufacturers from the mid 19th to the mid 20th centuries. On their website I found copies of Hustler catalogs, press releases and patents. I also found an image of your toy and its original packaging.
Your grandmother's four-man crew pull toy would “row” bending forward and back as the toy was pulled. Unfortunately, it has lost a lot of its original vibrant color and crew member details. In better condition and with the original box your Hustler Crew could sell in the $100 region. As it is, with fading and paint loss it could bring $10-30.