Mantua Metal Products was a Woodbury Heights, New Jersey, metalworks business founded in 1926 by John Tyler and family. In the 1930s Mantua began to manufacture HO scale model trains of die-cast metal, and became a leading hobbyist brand.
From 1942 to 1945, production of model railroad products was suspended as the company participated in manufacturing of precision measuring and mapping equipment for the U.S. Army and Navy in World War II. The company received the Army-Navy "E" Award for Excellence in Production in 1945. After the war, they converted the plant back to production of model railroading equipmen (for Tyler Company) brand. Many TYCO and Mantua die-cast products, such as steam engines, are collector's items today.
In the 1960s, TYCO changed its focus from train kits to ready-to-run trains sold in hobby shops and also added HO-scale electric racing, or "slot car" sets. By the 1970s, TYCO shifted sales and marketing to a consumer-oriented, mass marketing focus. Eventually the name changed to TYCO Industries, under which name the company was sold in 1970 to Consolidated Foods during an era of corporate conglomerates. As a division of what became the Sara Lee Corporation, Tyco continued to grow.
By the 1980s, Tyco dominated that market in electric racing, also producing the first "slot trucks" known as US-1 Trucks, as well as the radio control category. Diversification continued with the 1989 purchase of the View-Master/Ideal Group, which brought to the company the View-Master, Magna Doodle and the Ideal Nursery line of dolls. In the 1990s, the company branched out with other toys such as airplanes, clones of Lego brand building elements (after the basic patent ran out in 1983), and Sesame Street items. It made a hit in 1991 with their Disney's Little Mermaid dolls that were released during the same period the movie came to theaters. It purchased Matchbox, a maker of model cars, in 1993.
In 1995, Tyco Preschool was named the primary toy licensee for the Children's Television Workshop. A year later Tyco Preschool launched an extensive new line based on the popular children's program, Sesame Street. When Tyco was purchased by Mattel on March 27, 1997, it was the third largest toy company in the United States. The brand survives as the Mattel Tyco R/C division, while much of the Sesame Street line was transferred to the Fisher-Price division.
The Tyco model railroad business was purchased back by the Tyler family in 1977, who revived them under the Mantua Industries brand. Tyco exited the model railroad business after the 1993 catalog. Many of the Tyco model train products were then produced by Mantua and by International Hobby Corporation (IHC). In 2001, Mantua ceased production of its model railroad lines, and sold the model railroad business to the Model Power company, which continues to sell a few items such as steam engines as its Mantua Classics brand.