Bridgeport, Connecticut, 1868 - 1932. Founded by Edward R. Ives. Originally, Ives made baskets and hot air toys.
He joined partner Cornelius Blakeslee, a brother-in-law and moved to Bridgeport in 1870 and by the 1880s, they were leaders in quality clockwork toys designed by Jerome Secor, Nathan Warner, and Arthur Hotchkiss. Ives also acted as jobber for other toy manufactures' toys.
On July 31, 1928, Ives was purchased by Lionel and American Flyer for $73,250. The low price in comparison to the company sales was presumably due to liens on Ives' assets. Lionel and Flyer then operated Ives as a joint venture, retaining Johnson and Harry Ives as president and chairman, respectively. Harry Ives left the company in September 1929, but within seven years he died.
Ives' new owners immediately discontinued the line of toy boats, and much of Ives' train product line was replaced with relabeled American Flyer or Lionel product, and most new designs were carried out using Lionel and American Flyer parts, even though Ives' own designs were usually more realistic. There are several reasons for this. When Lionel and American Flyer bought Ives, they did not buy the factory or tooling, which they then had to rent. It may have been less expensive for the parent companies to supply their own parts than to rent the old Ives tooling. Some historians have speculated that the Ives tooling was worn out and no longer suitable for use. A third factor was that Lionel's and Flyer's manufacturing process was less labor intensive, which made their designs less expensive to manufacture than the Ives designs they replaced.
A notable exception was the Ives 1122 locomotive, first produced in 1929, which was the first near-to-scale model of an existing locomotive to enter the marketplace. Although it had a 4-4-2 wheel configuration, it was otherwise a recognizable copy of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad President Washington Class 4-6-2 locomotive.
The Ives Corporation was the first real American manufacturer of toy trains. In the mid-19th century, most toy trains were non-motorized toys that children pulled along on the floor. Ives developed the first mechanical clockwork locomotive, an innovation that gave its wind-up trains the excitement of self-propelled motion. That was in the 1870s, too. They were also safer than the toy locomotives with real steam engines being made by European manufacturers. Ives' clockwork cast iron trains were competitive but lacked the sparkle of tin litho car bodies and so they were soon producing tin litho trains as well. Some of them incorporated automatic air whistles and smoking stacks (courtesy of a lit cigarette). Eventually, a whole line of tin litho trolleys, train stations and platforms, bridges, signals and buildings would be added. The glass dome stations were the most elegant, but all of the tin litho buildings are highly prized today in good condition or better.
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