1918 Animate Toy Co., Baby Tractor & Trailers in Original Box

1918 Animate Toy Co., Baby Tractor & Trailers in Original Box

One of the earliest toys produced by this small New York City company was this three piece tin litho Baby Tractor and Trailers set. This example is unused in the original illustrated box. It's complete with its original traction rubber bands which are still in their paper packet with directions.

This simple, fragile, yet clever mechanical toy is almost always found broken. Printed no less than four times is the disclaimer that the spring "snarls easily" and that it should be "drawn slowly backward". Each time the wording is slightly different making it even more confusing. What this all means is that the toy breaks easily. 

It has to be one of the simplest spring driven mechanisms. Patented in 1916 the tractor's rear axle is threaded through the center of a long spring. Both ends of the spring are fixed so that pulling back on the rear wheel tightens the spring. Release it and the recoil moves the vehicle. It's clever, but also very fragile. If you draw it the wrong direction, or pull back too far it can easily loosen from one of the fixed points and then it no longer works.   

Based on the superb condition of this toy it probably broke early in it's life. Two rubber bands provided in a separate envelope were never opened. These are supposed to be wrapped around the tractor's rear wheels and allow it to pull up to "five times its own weight". This is equivalent to 10 ounces or the weight of a few pebbles. Much less than the box illustration would lead you to believe. This particular tractor was recently repaired. Although the wheels are wobbly, occasionally come loose from the axle, with solder visible on the inner left hub (see last photo) it does indeed work. 

In addition to the tractor the set contains an enclosed rectangular trailer and a side-dumping bin. Both have individual hitches with movable front axles so they can attach to the tractor. All three pieces are tin litho. The two trailers have pressed wooden wheels. The underside of the tractor includes yet a fifth set of lithoed instructions along with the patent date of 1916. This date refers to the spring wound "motor" and not it's production date. It was one of Animate Toy's first products, however the company was established in 1918.

The box is fabulous. Maybe more so than the toy itself. The cover includes three different hand drawn illustrations with lettered word balloons. Each one shows the tractor whizzing along, hauling incredible loads, or running up steep inclines. As you can see in the photo's the disclaimers cover most of the open space on the box. It has a price of 25¢ lightly penciled on one end. It also had a code number on the front cover which was crossed out with pencil.

Interestingly this toy was identified incorrectly in the latest 4th edition (published 2005) of O'Brien's Toy Cars and Trucks as a friction vehicle. As you probably realize by now it's a spring driven mechanical vehicle, not friction. 

Size: 10¾" long and 2" tall. 

Sold: Dec. 2005

Price Sold: $ 532


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Subject: 1918 Animate Toy Co., Baby Tractor & Trailers in Original Box

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