c.1880 W.S. Reed Toy Co., The "Pioneer" Sternwheel Paddlewheeler

c.1880 W.S. Reed Toy Co., The

The W.S. Reed Toy Co. (c.1875 - 1897) made toys using chromolithographed printed paper applied to wood. The "Pioneer" represents a typical river steamboat with its paddle wheel located at the rear (stern). It's simple flat deck design and use as a passenger vessel are clues that it was constructed early in the company's history. Reed's later ships made slightly before or during the Spanish-American War were predominately military. They were also much more elaborate.

The "Pioneer" is essentially a large pull toy. A length of rope would've been tied to the wooden bow knob. Moving forward the rear paddle starts to turn. The single off-center wheel mounted underneath the ship also turns giving it an up and down "wave-like" motion.

But the neatest thing about this toy are the details. Look carefully at the close-up photos showing the paper covered walls between decks and the pilot wheelhouse. Barrels and boxes stacked to the roof between staircases leading to the upper deck can be seen. Most of the cargo is identified as the kind of stuff you might actually see on a real riverboat; plantation bitters, corn starch, and even a case of bourbon are present. Barrels laid on their sides with lids measuring only ¼" in diameter are almost unidentifiable. Yet this is where the manufacturers name was printed as "W.S.R" (see last close-up photo). Pretty amazing when you consider the company that made this toy went out of business before the start of the 20th century!

The age of a Reed toy and the fact that it was made of wood frequently results in replaced or repainted parts. This toy is no exception. The two smokestacks are most likely replacements. In addition, under a black light, the strip of red edge only for the center deck, and only on the right side of the ship was repainted. The edge on the left side edge of the same deck is original. Without the black light the touch-up would be almost impossible to see. 

Size: 24". 

Sold: Aug. 2014

Price Sold: $ 365


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Subject: c.1880 W.S. Reed Toy Co., The "Pioneer" Sternwheel Paddlewheeler

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