Vintage Ads: Classic Christmas Toys

Toy ads have always been a December fixture in the Post. Check out these vintage ads for train sets, baby dolls, shiny new wagons, and more.

Weekly Newsletter

The best of The Saturday Evening Post in your inbox!

SUPPORT THE POST

Toy ads have always been a December fixture in the Post. Check out these vintage ads for train sets, baby dolls, shiny new wagons, and more.

Toy ad
Ives Toys
December 2, 1911
Click to Enlarge

The Ives Manufacturing Corporation made toy trains from 1868 to 1932.  For decades, Ives made clockwork trains, but created its first electric train in 1910.

Toy ad
American Flyer
December 3, 1949
Click to Enlarge

These three-car trains were as realistic as could be, with a 2-rail track, puffing smoke, and actual “choo-choo” sounds. But the price would set you back: the Pennsylvania model was $39.95, which would be more than $400 today.

Toy ad
Life Savers Christmas Gift-Book
December 8, 1951
Click to Enlarge

Life Savers were invented in 1912 as the meltless summer mint with a hole in the middle. The five-flavor pack was introduced in 1935, and the Christmas Gift-Book made its debut soon thereafter. For many kids, it was the go-to Secret Santa gift, because who didn’t love Life Savers?

Toy ad
Western Electric Junior Range
November 6, 1915
Click to Enlarge

This toy promises that “using it will be loads of fun and at the same time give the children their first lessons in domestic science.” Of course, it was meant for girls only.

Toy ad
Erector
November 27, 1915
Click to Enlarge

Erector advertised its toy as one that “solves the boy problem,” giving him “constructive work of practical value.”

Toy ad
J.C. Penney
December 7, 1929
Click to Enlarge

This ad appeared just a month after the great stock market crash on October 29, 1929. Note that J.C. Penney emphasizes their better prices to reassure customers that they were getting a good value.

Toy ad
Gifts for Everyone at Firestone
November 30, 1946
Click to Enlarge

For many years, Firestone stores sold more than tires.  At least at Christmastime, one could purchase not only appliances large and small, but also books, toys, and sporting goods.

Toy ad
U.S. Time Watches
November 30, 1946
Click to Enlarge

This company eventually changed its name to Timex, but in 1953, they were already boasting that their watches could take a licking and keep on ticking.

Toy ad
Roy Rogers Gifts at Sears
December 1, 1956
Click to Enlarge

Roy Rogers was one of the biggest Western film stars in the 1940s and ‘50s, and if you wanted to dress like him, Sears would oblige. Items included shirts, hats, boots, belts, jeans, gloves, watches, slippers, pajamas, and even a fringed jacket.

Toy ad
Rexall’s Bell Ringer Specials
December 3, 1966
Click to Enlarge

Many-a-child (or panicked parent) will remember sprinting into the local drug store for last-minute Christmas presents for loved ones. Whether you were shopping for a Royal Stag cologne set, Insta-Cube camera, or portable tape recorder, you’d find it at Rexall’s. (But please, please don’t buy anyone an iron for the holidays.)

Become a Saturday Evening Post member and enjoy unlimited access. Subscribe now

Comments

  1. Of all the ads here, the American Flyer trains and track look really desirable to me NOW! $400 (now) would be pricey, yes, but if it had the quality they had back then, it would be worth it. In 2010 after all, I did buy a $500 diecast 1:12 scale turquoise ’57 Chevy convertible from the Danbury Mint that’s truly the next best thing to the real thing. Their production plant overseas unfortunately burned down in 2012.

    I had no idea a miniature electric cooking stove (for girls) such as this Western Electric existed in the early 1900’s. Not only that, but the safety concerns that were addressed in the ad are impressive. They were probably as good as some of the ones the girls in my 3rd grade class had in 1965-66, half a century later!

    Also had no idea Firestone ever sold anything more than tires and some accessories that went with them in their tire stores.

  2. I had the extreme pleasure of owning a Gilbert “Master Builder” erector set at age 11—bought with my lawn-mowing money —from who else? Sears. That was in the summer of 1955; at Christmas of that year I became the delighted recipient of a Jensen “Model 5” live steam engine! Both toys and I shared many a dream and lots of projects — including a steam car!. I’m 72, I still have both toys, and the engine runs perfectly, as does the electric motor and transmission for the Erector. They put the plastic stuff to shame. The Jensen company out of Jeannette, Pennsylvania still make model engines. It’s fun to remember….all I have to do now is to find a youngster bright and creative enough to take my toys into the future…..

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *