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Rediscovering the Oldest Cast Iron Toy Plane

PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2016 2:47 pm
by Tone
The topic of this post is what is most likely the oldest model cast iron toy plane, a Bleriot monoplane with US cast on the side.

Dr Tom Miller, longtime toy collector and early Plane News editor, loved this plane and wrote about it several times. He, a person who contributed much original research, who had numerous collecting friends and who belonged to prestigious antique toy organizations, admitted it was a mystery.

Here are two photos that appeared in The Plane News magazine. They were contributed by Dr Miller and belong to GR Webster. The upper photo appeared in issue #7, Fall 1990; the lower photo, in issue # 22, August 1994 and was part of Dr Miller's feature articles on cast iron toy planes.



In 2005, Dr Miller published his Big Book of Toy Airplanes which, while containing numerous errors, demonstrated his wonderful collection of cast iron toys. In the text, Miller discussed the rarity of the toy and described it in detail, and why he thought it might date to the period of World War One. Additionally, on Page 21, we find this photo and caption:


"A mystery toy that possibly dates back to World War I. The plane includes a pilot and the castings form an open frame fuselage and a wing with a pattern indicating a series of ribs. It has a spool undercarriage, presumably to wind a cord onto for means of pulling the toy along the floor. Reference material suggests this models a U.S. pilot trainer used in France in 1917 - 1918."

Miller, W Tom, Ph.D., Big Book of Toy Airplanes (Paducah, KY:Collector Books, 2005).

I was looking for on-line links with photos of a Hubley Lindy Glider to identify a part of a broken toy posted in the general Miniatureaircraftcollectors forum. While doing so, I discovered a March 2016 Bertoia auction with photos that identified this very plane as a Jones and Bixler brand product.


The photo identifies Bob Stewart and Bob Brady as collectors who have owned this example in the past. I recognize Bill (not Bob) Stewart, and Bob Brady as being cast iron plane collectors along with Miller. (Brady was offering a dark blue and orange Hubley Lindy Lockheed Sirius for several thousand dollars at a Macungie, PA toy show several years ago). The toy in the auction has wear marks that differ from those on Miller's example. The description states that it is the only example that is complete with its original pilot. That comment suggests that the pilot of Miller's plane is a replacement. Compare the shapes of their caps: they are different. In addition, the propellers differ. That on Miller's plane is smaller and brighter with a loop cast in front. The prop on the plane in the auction, in contrast, is larger, its blades are thicker, and the metal finish is dull, not shiny.

I was able to find some information about Jones & Bixler history and products online. Here are two links, below.

We read:

"Jones & Bixler, Co. Freemansburg, Pennsylvania - 1899 – 1914
Founder: Charles A. Jones and Louis S. Bixler
Specialty: 'Red Devil Line' of cast-iron auto toys (introduced in 1903, when J & B became part of National Novelty Corp.). From 1909-1913, J & B and Kenton Hardware (which also became part of National Novelty toy trust) produced toys that were indistinguishable from each other."

If Jones & Bixler ceased production in 1914, the toy cannot represent a Bleriot used in 1917-1918; it should be a caricature of an earlier Bleriot model. Miller's conclusion, however, was a logical one based on the toy's appearance.

Bleriot flew the English Channel in 1909. Given the dates listed at the antique toy web site above, might at least one of the two examples of this plane be a Kenton product actually, as the article suggests Jones & Bixler and Kenton "produced toys that were indistinguishable from each other" beginning in 1909?

The second link is from a blog, and it includes a number of photos: ... mpany.html

The Bleriot airplane is not among them. The Peerless racing car is very good-looking!

Thanks for reading my material, and PLEASE add information if you know more about this topic!

Re: Rediscovering the Oldest Cast Iron Toy Plane

PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2017 10:12 pm
by bstewart9
Bob Stewart was my father. I ended up receiving all his cast iron airplanes when he sold the rest of his collection (cast iron pull toys, bell toys and mechanical banks) in the 1990's.

Some of my planes were included in the Summer 1997 #33/34 issue of Miniature Aircraft Quarterly.

Re: Rediscovering the Oldest Cast Iron Toy Plane

PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2017 11:32 pm
by Tone
Wow! Your father must have been a ground-breaking pioneer toy collector.