One of the benefits of being a dealer who works one day a month in a local antique shop is being able to take a closer look at — and even play with — items in the store. Working at Exit 55 Antiques (Fergus Falls, MN), I spotted this gem of an old tin toy and I just had to take a closer look…
This vintage lithographed tin mechanical toy is called the “Sunny Andy” Kiddy Kampers. (One step further with the “K” alliteration and we’d all be extremely uncomfortable!) Measuring 14 inches long, this vintage mechanical toy features five scouting figures; three Boy Scouts who cut lumber and two Girl Scouts who practice their signalling.
This particular vintage tin lithographed toy isn’t in perfect condition, but it still was fun to see in action!
How it originally worked was marble power. Aggies and/or steel balls would run down from the yellow-surrounded opening onto the grey ramp, which uses see-saw action to both activate the scouting scene and release the next marble. When all the marbles have been spent, they’re collected via the red dish receptacle at the bottom into a U-shaped tube on the back which then could be flipped to start dispensing the marbles again.
This “Sunny Andy” toy was made by the Wolverine Supply and Manufacturing Company. The Wolverine Supply and Manufacturing Company was begun in 1903 by Benjamin E. Bain and his wife, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Named “Wolverine” for Benjamin’s alma mater, the University of Michigan, the company incorporated in 1906. The company originally began manufacturing and repairing tools and dies, and was quickly contacted by the Sand Toy Company of Pittsburgh to assist in making parts for their sand-activated mechanical toy, the “Sandy Andy”. Quickly, Bain bought out the Sand Toy Company and Wolverine Supply and Manufacturing Co. began making the complete “Sandy Andy”.
The “Sandy Andy” was Wolverine’s first toy, but the line grew more swiftly than sands passing through an hourglass as Wolverine soon introduced other sand-operated construction-themed mechanical tin and pressed steel toys. By 1913, these “boy’s toys” were being sold in large department stores all over the U.S.A. By the time of the 1918 New York Toy Fair, Wolverine showcased an expanded line of sand-play and beach toys to include sand pails and “girls’ toys”, such as tea sets, washtubs and washboards, ironing boards, and miniature grocery stores, as well as the “Dumping Sandy.”
By the 1920s, Wolverine Supply and Manufacturing Company was using marbles to power their toys, adding more names and trademarks, such as “Bizzy Andy” and “Bowler Andy”, to distinguish these from the sand powered toys. Like the sand toys and the Kiddie Kamper toys, once set in operation, these toys continued to operate until the supply of marbles or sand was exhausted, even when unattended, creating an addictive quality… I’m sure parents back then worried that the kids spent too much time sitting passively watching toys like this, just as parents do about kids and video games today.
Even though these sand-powered toys remained unchanged and selling though the 1950s, Wolverine Supply and Manufacturing continued to expand their toy line, including making metal pull toys too, such as the the “Sandy Andy” Bunny. In 1928, the “Sunny Andy” and “Sunny Suzy” names were announced to cover all toys not operated by sand, making way for 1929′s debut of positive mechanical action toys, transportation toys, such as airplanes, boats, and buses with rubber tires.
Wolverine Supply and Manufacturing Company would not only survive the Great Depression, but thrive. In the 1930s, clockwork mechanisms were introduced and this Kiddie Kampers toy, along with others, would find themselves revamped; now activated with a metal key. The 1950s brought educational toys; the 1960s, the popular girl’s line of Rite-Hite metal kitchen and household toys as well as “Sunny Suzy” dollhouses.
In 1962, Wolverine Supply and Manufacturing Company would change its name to Wolverine Toy Company. Six years later, in 1968, Spang Industries (now Spang & Company), would purchase the Wolverine Toy Company, making it a subsidiary. In 1986, the Wolverine name appears no longer used, replaced by the Today’s Kids moniker. Today’s Kids now seems defunct.