Tonka Trucks

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Winning Nomination

Tonka toy trucks were created by Mound Metalcraft Company in 1947 in a schoolhouse basement near Lake Minnetonka. An immediate success, the half dozen employees produced 37,000 toy trucks that first year. Since then, entire generations of children have grown up with Tonka trucks. These durable, bright yellow toys may well be seen as an iconic symbol of childhood in the post-World War II era, representing a time when all things seemed possible. Unlimited growth, interstate highways, skyscrapers, suburbs, malls--all these things constructed in an era of cheap resources by young adults who grew up moving piles of dirt from one edge of their sandboxes to the other. Okay, maybe that's a little over the top! But it is certainly true that millions of youngsters grew up with and have fond memories of the Tonka truck received as a birthday or Christmas present. Such fond memories, all the result of the efforts of a tiny start-up company in Minnesota, most provide a sufficient rationale for including the humble and noble Tonka truck in the Minnesota 150.
~Matt Bjurstrom, Minneapolis, MN


Contents

History

Transforming the sandbox into a construction site

"I love dumpin', I love diggin', I love haulin', I love liftin', I love dirt and rocks and sand and mud and muck. I love my Tonka--man, I love my truck."

That's the jingle used by Hasbro to market one of its best-selling lines--brightly colored, rugged Tonka trucks. Today's Tonkas come in a variety of models, from dump trucks to fire trucks to pickups, all made of highly durable plastic. Their predecessors--red, yellow, and blue models made of steel--are now highly desirable collectibles cherished by baby boomers whose formative years were spent building sandbox cities. Nominator Matt Bjurstrom of Minneapolis explains: "Tonka toy trucks were created by Mound Metalcraft Company in 1947 in a schoolhouse basement near Lake Minnetonka and were an immediate success. A half-dozen employees produced 37,000 toy trucks that first year alone. Since then, entire generations of children have grown up with Tonka trucks. These durable, bright yellow toys may well be seen as an iconic symbol of childhood in the post-World War II era. Millions of us have fond memories of the Tonka truck received as a birthday or Christmas present."

The first trucks offered by Mound Metalcraft were the Model 100 steam shovel and the Model 150 "crane and clam." Over the years, the company--which became Tonka Toys in 1956--developed a reputation for durability and attention to realistic detail, all the while keeping up with changes in the real-life construction and transportation industries. A pickup premiered in 1955, followed by a jeep in 1962. The bright yellow Mighty Dump Truck came on the scene in 1965 and was Tonka's best seller for the rest of the century. Today's Tonkas are made by Hasbro, which acquired the company in 1991.
"Lemme tell ya, buddy, if ya got one you're in luck. I love my Tonka--man, I love my truck."

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