1919 Wolverine, Automatic Sand Crane in Original Box

1919 Wolverine, Automatic Sand Crane in Original Box

Based on Wolverine's 1915 and 1916 automatic sand toy patents the Automatic Sand Crane was brought to market in 1919. It was available through the Sears and Roebuck catalog for $1.19. I purchased it from the family of the original owner. Somehow it was left untouched, unused, and unassembled for 87 years. I was the first to assemble it for the auction photo's. It's in pristine near mint condition complete with the original box. 

One look at the first photo below shows that it's also one of the most artistically embellished toys of its time. This is the lithographed interior of the base unit. It shows a beautiful full color landscape of a working sand mill. (Two cranes buried nearly to the roof by the surrounding mountains of sand are staffed with laborers in the foreground. Open railroad containers stretching to the horizon are filled by nearby cranes. Factories with billowing smoke stacks operate busily along the tracks. Far off in the distance a small factory town tucked into the hillside, waits by the shore of an adjacent sea. Above the town, clouds float through the blue sky). Surrounding this pastoral scene are the four raised metal edges of the base. These are decorated with repeating red, yellow, black, white, and green art nouveau mosaic patterns. This is not just a lithographed steel toy, but a work of art.

The toy consists of 10 parts. Assembling it is easy. With continuous operation it will automatically transfer the sand out of the hopper until it's emptied. The exact mechanism of action is outlined in the last photo. 

The parts were packed inside an oblong box which cleverly folded inside out to form a gigantic sand tray. Step by step instructions with schematics for assembling the toy and its operation were printed on the inside. Footprints for the base and sand container were laid out. Two 18" green metal strips were provided. These clip over the two long edges of the box to strengthen it and make it rigid (see last box photo). Sand could be transferred from its container to the toy using the green metal scoop included. These more obscure parts like the scoop, the metal clips, and the sealed sand are all still together with the toy. Probably the most obscure part, a foot long piece of red cord (string) was also still inside the box. 

Despite the rugged box design it was not intended to last much more than a few years, much less 87 years. The colors are washed out and it's very brittle. Many of the factory made folds had split. It had several large tears and crease. Approximately 15% was unsalvageable. As shown below the deteriorated sections were replaced.   

As of July, 2012 this remains the only set of its kind I've seen.

Size: Box Unfolded 22" x 16" x 3". Toy 13¼" high x 12" x 12".

Sold: Apr. 2006

Price Sold: $ 535


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