Strombecker slot cars

Strombeck-Becker Mfg. Co. history

The roots of the present-day Strombecker date to 1876, when a trade paper called the National Laundry Journal was started on the West Side of Chicago. Its publishers, brothers Charles O. and Samuel Dowst, later began to make small laundry accessories like die-cast collar buttons and cufflinks. In 1893 Samuel Dowst saw a Mergenthaler Linotype machine at the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition, which made metal type for printing by injecting hot lead into molds. Realizing it could also effectively produce metal buttons, he convinced the company to purchase one.

Dowst soon began producing more metal items, including die-cast promotional trinkets for clients like the Flat Iron Laundry Company, which bought them to give away to its customers' children. These items, which included a flatiron, a top hat, a Scottie dog, and a candlestick, would much later be adopted for use as tokens in the board games Monopoly and Clue. In 1906 Dowst introduced the world's first die-cast toy car, and several years later began making one patterned after the Model T Ford, which went on to sell more than 50 million copies. The firm's toy vehicles were known as "Tootsietoys," after company founder Charles O. Dowst's granddaughter "Toots." Their popularity was such that automobile manufacturers paid for creation of the molds so they could be included in the company's line.

One of the firm's competitors was the Cosmo Manufacturing Company, which had been founded in Chicago in 1892 by Nathan Shure. Cosmo's niche was making small prizes for inclusion in boxes of Cracker Jack, which was made by another Chicago-area firm. In 1926 Cosmo bought Dowst, and the merged companies took the name Dowst Manufacturing Co. Together they would make a variety of die-cast toys like train sets, doll furniture, airplanes, cars, and trucks, as well as Cracker Jack prizes and game tokens. By this time the firm had abandoned its publishing operations.

Dowst's business continued to grow despite the hardships of the Great Depression and World War II, during which the company turned to producing detonators for grenades and mines, as well as belt and parachute buckles. Because of severe restrictions on the use of metal, Dowst Manufacturing's only wartime toys were made of paper.

After the cessation of hostilities, the company returned to full-time toy production. Dowst soon added new items like western-style cap gun sets, which would prove popular in the late 1950s. By that time control of the firm had passed to Nathan Shure's grandsons Myron, Richard, and Alan.

Slot Car Boom, and Bust, in the 1960s

The 1950s had seen the emergence of a number of new electronic toys, including slot cars, motorized size plastic vehicles that could be raced against each other on an electrified track. The cars, which were replicas of actual models made by the likes of Jaguar and Ferrari, quickly became popular with youngsters, especially boys. To cash in on the trend, in 1961 Dowst acquired the hobby division of manufacturer Strombeck-Becker, hired 14 designers, and retooled its factory to facilitate production of the car-and-track sets. Sales of the toys, which were marketed under the name Strombecker, jumped from 20,000 to 500,000 sets by 1963, making the company one of the industry's leaders in this category. With the cars now comprising the firm's main source of revenue, Dowst Manufacturing changed its name to Strombecker Corporation.

For several years the company rode high on the slot car fad, but then sales plunged in the latter half of the decade. When the firm's largest customer, Sears, Roebuck & Co., canceled orders and tried to return all of its inventory, Strombecker faced financial ruin. The firm, which had recorded profits of $3 million at the peak of the boom, suddenly found itself facing annual losses of more than $6 million. As a consequence, Myron, Alan, and Richard Shure were forced to personally guarantee the company's loans, and to avoid bankruptcy they decided to return to the more traditional toys with which the firm had earlier found success. At this time Alan Shure left to run a business that made small electric motors, leaving Myron and Richard to run the company.

Strombecker bounced back with the introduction of the "Jam-Pac," a set of ten die-cast cars that sold for a dollar. Placed by the counter at supermarkets throughout the country, it became "the world's best shutter-upper," according to Myron Shure's son Daniel, as parents in the checkout line could buy it for a child in order to keep them quiet. The Jam-Pac sold ten million sets in its first year, and continued to do well thereafter.

During this same period Strombecker acquired exclusive rights to manufacture Kewpie Dolls, which had been created in the early 1900s by Rose O'Neill. The firm hired Jean Cantwell, secretary-treasurer of the Rose O'Neill Club, to act as spokesperson. The venture was not a major success, however. By the mid-1970s Strombecker's annual sales were a relatively modest $6 million.

Questions, comments, or sweet memories?
Share on this Strombecker forum!


(will not be displayed)
yes, mail me the link to this page

Chris - December 4, 2011

Great article. Brings back fond memories from earlier years. Those were great times. A time when you would use your imagination and interact with others on a personal level not elctronic. Time to bring some of that back.

For sale on eBay USA. To change country, click on flag:
Change selection: <---
worldwide only USA
ebay New to eBay? Join here, it's free!
VINTAGE STROMBECKER ZOO APART WOOD PULL TOY
vintage strombecker zoo apart2 bid(s)ends in 20h$10.50
details  ►
VINTAGE CAR TOY STROMBECKER PONTIAC TRANS
vintage car toy strombecker$23.99
details  ►
TootsieToy Partial Porcelain Vintage Tea Set
tootsietoy partial porcelain$9.99
details  ►
Vtg Strombecker Battleship U S S New Jersey
vtg strombecker battleship u s$10.00
details  ►
Very Large Lot of Vintage and Antique Toys
very large lot of vintage and$22.00
details  ►
Vintage 1950 s Strombecker Wood Toddler Train
vintage 1950 s strombecker$10.00
details  ►
20 PIECE ENGLISH BREAKFAST CHILDRENS TEA SET
20 piece english breakfast$14.99
details  ►
Vintage wooden six car train and box made by
vintage wooden six car train$120.00
details  ►
JAMES BOND 007 1960s Sean Connery Aston
james bond 007 1960s sean$150.00
details  ►
VINTAGE 1960 S WOODEN EGGBERT S ARMY TRUCK BY
vintage 1960 s wooden eggbertends in 19h$9.95
details  ►
1930s Strombecker National Fast Freight
1930s strombecker national$139.00
details  ►
Doll house Vtg Strombecker Kool Kats Porsche
doll house vtg strombecker$10.99
details  ►
Strombecker Military Miniatures Civil War
strombecker military$22.00
details  ►
RARE VINTAGE ANTIQUE 1926 STROMBECKER
rare vintage antique 1926$133.49
details  ►
4 Vintage Strombecker English lead colonial
4 vintage strombecker english$60.00
details  ►
Lot of three vintage plastic vehicles
lot of three vintage plastic$0.99
details  ►
NIB TootsieToy Hearts n Home Large 50 Pc
nib tootsietoy hearts n home$30.00
details  ►
1930 s StromBecker Wooden Toy Train Set Nice
1930 s strombecker wooden toy$99.95
details  ►
Little Girl Strombecker Tea Set
little girl strombecker tea$4.95
details  ►
2 DOLLHOUSE CHAIRS 1 SIGNED STROMBECKER
2 dollhouse chairs 1 signed$9.99
details  ►
Vintage Strombecker Racing Good Luck Token
vintage strombecker racing$17.94
details  ►
DOLL HOUSE FURNITURE Strombecker Antique
doll house furniture$15.00
details  ►
1940 s StromBecker Wooden Toy Train Set Nice
1940 s strombecker wooden toy$99.95
details  ►
3 Vintage Strombecker lead soldier with long
3 vintage strombecker lead$50.00
details  ►
Vintage 1966 Strombecker 1520 Military
vintage 1966 strombecker 1520$8.00
details  ►
Antique Strombecker Wooden Pounding Peg Toy
antique strombecker wooden$12.99
details  ►
Strombecker Lines three piece wood toy train
strombecker lines three piece$89.99
details  ►
1998 STROMBECKER CO TOOTSIE TOY HOT SHOT
1998 strombecker co tootsie$4.99
details  ►
4 vintage union Strombecker Civil War lead
4 vintage union strombecker$50.00
details  ►
Strombecker The Thing VW 1970 s Nice
strombecker the thing vw 1970$24.99
details  ►
StromBecker porcelain child s tea set
strombecker porcelain child sends in 2h$22.00
details  ►
Strombecker Military Miniatures 54 Mm Rounds
strombecker military$12.95
details  ►