While I delight at the unexpected things to find at flea markets and antique shops, it is rather hard to completely surprise this collector of kitsch. But that’s what happened last week, when I spotted this vintage poodle pull toy made of black springs and rubber.
Standing nine inches tall, this vintage poodle was like nothing I’d seen before. Sure, I’ve seen plenty of kitschy poodles, including those with rubber faces, and pull toys with Slinky-spring mid-sections; but this is in a class unto itself. The red plastic leash, even with the chewed off handle or loop, suggested a walking or pull toy. And the feet have little traction bumps to help with the toy’s movement. I just had to own him!
But all those springs, from spine to legs, make this toy so unlike the usual wooden, plastic and even plush animal pull-toys that I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. At first, in part due to there being yellow plastic tape wrapped around its neck, I wasn’t sure if this was a one-of creation someone had made out of old springs and toy parts — an early altered art or folk art piece. But closer inspection provided clues. The plastic feet fit the springs too perfectly. The spring construction itself, including how the smaller spring of a tail was attached, was clearly made this way originally. But still, no maker marks were found.
Eventually, I became brave enough to loosen and remove the yellow plastic tape that covered the base of the neck… Hooray! Not only did the poodle’s head remain intact and attached to the spring-formed body, but removing the tape revealed a patent number along the red collar portion of the rubber neck.
That patent number lead to this ambulatory animal toy patent belonging to William A. Brodrib:
The general object of the invention is to provide a toy in the form of a dog or other four-footed animal and having various parts including a skeleton and feet which cooperate to effect walking movements approximating those of a live animal, the said walking movements of the toy being effected by the application of external force, as for instance by means of a cord attached to the neck portion.
…In the drawings I have shown in detail one embodiment of the invention, but it will be understood that various changes may be made from the construction shown, and that the drawings are not to be construed as defining or limiting the scope of the invention
This finished version does look somewhat different, as promised in the patent. The shape of the solid plastic feet or paws remained nearly the same, even if the attachment was different.
The patent was filed in 1950, granted in 1953, dating this toy to the early 1950s. But still, there are no maker markings to be found.
William Brodrib was a director at Walk-A-Bout Toys, Inc., but that’s where the trail ends. So far. Right now, I need to go and give this vintage dog a good (but gentle) bath.