Hubley Toys Santa in Sleigh with Two Reindeer cast iron
Hubley toys has quite a few iconic castings and this Santa sleigh is one of the premier cast iron American toys. Our sleigh features two reindeer, as most have one, and also features a white base color with accents of gold and red. Of the variants we have documented, this one is seldomly seen.
Kids and collectors can push this extra large toy along the floor & reindeer prance. Antiques Roadshow Noel Barret commented on how much he enjoyed the action of the reindeer; we do too.
Then the condition of the toy is very good, but has the expected spots of corrosion and aging. Overall paint coverage is well over 95%, which is incredible for a 100 year old toy. Our estimates place this one around 1915.
For the history buffs like myself, here is a brief history of Hubley Toys, as written by Lancaster, PA historians:
“The Hubley Manufacturing Company of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, one of the oldest and largest makers of toys in the United States, was founded in 1894 by John E. Hubley to manufacture equipment and accessories for electric trains. Financial difficulties forced Mr. Hubley to sell the entire stock in 1909. At this time the electric train business was discontinued and the cast iron toy business started. Among the first toys produced were a coal range, circus wagons and mechanical banks, all collector’s items today.
Included in the 68,000 square feet of floor space in the Hubley plant were a die-cast room, warehouse, tool room, paint room and all the special assembly machinery. Besides making their cast iron toys, the company made castings for other companies in Lancaster which were without foundry equipment.
By 1940 increased freight costs and foreign competition forced the company to look for other materials. During World War II scarcity of metal forced the company out of the toy business and into war-related items. After the Korean conflict ended and regulations on metal were suspended, cast iron toy production resumed.
Following common manufacturing methods of the time, Hubley toys of the 1890s, and for a time thereafter, were cast in sand molds in two parts which were then riveted together to form the toy. All toys were designed by John Hubley, who had remained deeply interested in children’s playthings since the time he first made his own children’s wooden toys.
In 1936 Hubley started casting in multiple cavity steel dies. Die castings were broken off, trimmed, and tumbled in revolving cylindrical machines. They were then taken to the paint department where they were given baked enamel or lacquer, air-dried paint finishes in various colors. At one time, a dozen girls were employed in the paint department. Portions of the earlier toys were handpainted and some were dipped.
Each different toy was started on its own moving assembly line where parts were added, details sprayed on, oiling and inspection took place and the assembly completed. For example, a fire engine took shape on one line. It started as a red chassis. The rubber-tired wheels were added, followed by the spraying on of the radiator, bumpers and headlights. The driver was added, and the ladder, fire axes and other accessories followed. Near the end of the line, the toy was individually boxed and packed in a corrugated container. In 1949, due to union disputes, the foundry was closed. This was a difficult decision for the firm, since Hubley was one of the first companies to devote their entire factory to die casting.
The Hubley Company maintained a designing department where ideas were conceived and developed for model forms. Design engineers kept up-to-date on the models and style changes by attending automobile shows and studying advertisements. Their designs changed when the larger counterparts changed. After items were conceived and models developed, the toys were analyzed for pricing. The more play features a model had, the more expensive it was.