As we have done in the past, the ITCA has ventured into the discussion of toy Checkers. In this blog, we’ll go way back to cover Checker toys that have been brought to market.
Almost 100 years ago, If they were good little kids, they might get a toy car, truck, tractor or taxicab Christmas morning. If they were very lucky, Santa might have delivered a toy Checker Cab assembled by the Arcade Toy Company.
The Arcade Toy Company of Freeport, Illinois, like many of the other toy companies of the late 1880’s-early 1900’s, started out manufacturing products other than toys. Initially, they made spring hinges,coffee mills (grinders), and other household items. The company was created in 1868 by 2 brothers – Edward H. & Charles Morgan.
1908 saw the Arcade Manufacturing Company start to produce cast iron animal toy banks. The horse was first and Arcade made horses in a variety of different poses. Due to the success of the horse, a lion, seal, pig, buffalo, cow, rhinoceros and even a rat was added. Many more animal banks followed in 1910, along with other bank figures such as a safe, clock and mailbox. Some of them were mechanical, and like other companies these toy banks were very popular at the time.
In 1921 Isaac P. Gassman, secretary and sales manager, went to Chicago to visit a friend who was a former resident of Freeport and, at the time, was president of the Yellow Cab Company. The two men agreed that Arcade would manufacture a miniature copy of the well-known Yellow Cab. At the time, toys were only 5% of the Arcade line. They soon capitalized on this style’s popularity by creating promotional replicas for many other companies (including Checker), each featuring a different logo and color scheme. “Perfect pocket size reproductions of the ‘real ones’ – sturdily built” was the familiar Arcade tagline. The Arcade brochure proclaimed “for those who prefer a Checker Cab we have just the thing”.
By 1935 Arcade had a line of inexpensive home-shop machines that used the “Arcade”, “Arcade Craft Tools”, and “Craftmaster” names. In 1941 Arcade introduced the Homecraft line of woodworking machinery. In 1946, Arcade was purchased by Rockwell Manufacturing Co.; Rockwell made use of Arcade’s foundry and machining facilities but never produced any of the old Arcade line of products. Many Checker fans are aware of Rockwell, the company that produced a line of Taximeters.
The Arcade “Yellow Cab”, is a patented design, the toy was engineered by Arcade toy specialist Hazen C. Mogan. What is particularly interesting is that all marketing material depict an illustrated Yellow Cab produced by Yellow Cab Manufacturing of Chicago, prominently depicting the Yellow’s trapezoid radiator. That said, the actually toy looks like a Checker! The toy features the Checker “horse shoe” rounded radiator!
As reported above, Arcade would also produce a toy Checker Cab utilizing the same tooling. The only difference was that the toy was painted in traditional Chicago Checker Taxi livery. Painted in the correct Checker scheme with proper checkerboard. The toy Checker does look more like a Checker Cab Model H than a Yellow Cab Model O-4.
The arcade brochure indicates that other paint & livery combinations could be ordered. Its a pretty good assumption, that these toy also served as promotional items for taxicab operators
Ultimately, Arcade would introduce a toy Taxicab that was actually a Checker. By the early 1930’s Morris Markin would have effective control of the taxicab market in Chicago. Markin owned both Checker and Yellow taxi fleets in Chicago. When the Arcade introduced a new toy Taxicab, it was a miniature version of the Checker Model M. To make it very clear that the taxi was a Checker, the name Checker was embossed over the top of the toy’s windshield. Still painted in a yellow and black livery, the toy marked the first official toy of a Checker Cab. If you can locate one today, be prepared to pay anywhere from $500.00 to $1000.00.
Several years later Arcade would introduce a toy Checker Model Y. Again. Like the Model M, if you can find a Arcade Model Y, be prepared to pay about $1500. Interesting to note that the Model Y is called a Parmelee Taxi in the Arcade catalog. The Parmelee is perhaps the best Arcade Checker, its clearly the most accurate Checker.
If you would like one of these toys today they can be found on Ebay on a regular basis. A word of warning, many of the Arcade taxi toy or banks available today on the market are reproductions. Produced from the original molds, these toy are inferior to the original and can be had at lower prices in the $25 to $50 range.
The toy depicted in the header is a reproductions, current plans for the holiday season is to convert and repaint to Checker livery.