c.1910 Hess 7pc. Clockwork Flotilla In Original Box

c.1910 Hess 7pc. Clockwork Flotilla In Original Box

Magnificent pre-WWI clockwork "Flotilla" warship fleet manufactured by the Hess company, Nuremberg Germany. All made of lithographed and brass finished tinplate this set was acquired from the deaccession of The Old Salem Toy Museum, Winston-Salem, NC. Extraordinarily scarce toy in remarkable excellent+ to near mint condition; all original paint and parts with the exception of a single flag! Even more amazing it comes complete with its super rare original box, separate tin parts box, dividers, and insert.

The "fleet" consists of 7 ships. This includes the large clockwork Dreadnought, 2 Destroyers (two guns), 2 Battlecruisers (one gun), and 2 Torpedo Boats (no guns). Single red/white/blue flags are inserted into the center post of each small ship. But the Dreadnought holds 2 flags! The flags are stored in a very old 2-piece polished tin box which the Museum considered original to the toy.

Concealed beneath the Dreadnought is a single, strong wind-up clockwork motor with weighted flywheel. The smaller boats (all without motors) are connected to the motorized ship using any combination of 7, or less, metal rods. The rods are several different sizes and shapes permitting multiple Flotilla variations.

The toy was designed so that the connector rods remain level while it's moving. The Dreadnought's bow wheel, or front wheel (on the bottom side of the ship), has a displaced off-center axle. This causes it to pitch and roll as it moves forward. The connector rods transfer this motion to the other ships which also move up and down as if being buffeted by waves. The result is very realistic movement. The Flotilla was one of the very first toys to produce this type of motion. In the U.S., Marx, Unique Art Mfg., Strauss, Chein, Lindstrom and lots of other companies incorporated the idea into many of their "eccentric" moving toys. But the Flotilla was possibly the first. And it works great!

Hess sold the set in variations containing from two to six smaller ships. The Dreadnought could also be purchased separately. The set offered here was the largest produced.

David Pressland's, "Art of The Tin Toy" shows a version of the box with an illustrated cover marked Germany. However, this particular set was sold in France with an all-French text print. Called "Escadre En Marche" or "Moving Squadron" it was imported to Paris and sold by "Au Paradis des Enfants" (Children's Paradise). In addition to the large print the underside cover included "Children's Paradise illustrated company label. Their slogan "Magasins les Plus Vastes de Paris" roughly translates to "The largest store in Paris".

Despite the difference (illustration vs. text) the German and French boxes were colored using one single color blue (as in blue ocean). It's divided into three sections reinforced with metal corners. The center section also has a separate insert.

This set was marked and cataloged by its previous owner; The Old Salem Toy Museum. The underside of each ship plus the tin flag box have a barely noticeable small swatch of white paint with the museum's code number written on it. The number without paint also appears lightly in pencil on the underside box cover. Pencil notations, written in French, were also lightly written on the underside cover.

Size: Dreadnought 8¾, Ships 5½". Box (approx.) 14¾" x 11¾" x 3¾"

Date Sold: Jan. 2011

Price Sold: $ 1399


Send Comments

Email Address:
Confirm Email Address:
Subject: c.1910 Hess 7pc. Clockwork Flotilla In Original Box

security code