Tinkertoys have a history of delighting and teaching children for more than a century. Many adults have fond memories of opening a big cylindrical tube as a child, and spreading out a bunch of wooden and cardboard pieces on the floor. We could let our imagination run wild, while fashioning them into models of cars, Ferris wheels, houses, and windmills. In those days, more boys than girls played with Tinkertoys, while fewer boys played with dolls.
In 1913, Charles H. Pajeau, a stonemason from Evanston, Illinois, invented Tinkertoys. Pajeau had seen children connecting empty spools of thread and pencils to construct models of things. He partnered with Robert Pettit, a former stockbroker, to form the Toy Tinker Company and manufacture the first sets of Tinkertoys.
They sold the first Tinkertoys in 1914. After a slow start, sales picked up after Pajeau and Pettit displayed the toys at the New York Toy Fair in 1915.
The Tinkertoy became one of the earliest toys marketed with an electric motor. Children now could build more complex structures, such as Ferris wheels and airplanes. In the 1950s, Tinkertoys introduced colorful pieces. The original sets came in natural wood. Now you could get red, green, blue, and peach sticks added to the mix. In 1978, Daniel Hillis and Brian Silverman actually used Tinkertoys, strings, and weights to make a computer that could play tic tac toe!
In 1986, the Toy Tinker Company merged with Hasbro. Hasbro has continued to produce Tinkertoys, and the toys remain popular. By 1992, Hasbro discontinued wooden Tinkertoys. They began producing plastic Tinkertoys, which were less expensive to make.
Here are some additional facts about Tinkertoys:
The name “Tinkertoy” came from the word “tinker,” which means a person who repairs things.
Original Tinkertoy sets included 28 different pieces.
The most complex Tinkertoy structure ever built was a 12-foot-tall Ferris wheel.
Tinkertoys have appeared in several movies and television shows, including “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Brady Bunch.”
In 1998, the National Toy Hall of Fame selected Tinkertoys as a new inductee.
Here is a brief history of the ownership of the Tinkertoy brand over the years:
1914-1952: Toy Tinker Company owned the Tinkertoy brand.
1952-1986: The Tinkertoy brand joined A.G. Spalding & Bros., Inc.
1986: Hasbro acquired the Tinkertoy brand.
- Year Started: 1914
- Year Ended: 2099
- Origin Of Name: Descriptive
- Location Sales: Worldwide
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Toy Tinker Company
- Owner While In Use: Toy Tinker Company
- Owner Successor: Hasbro
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Tinkertoys
- Naics Code: 339930
- Location Headquarters: Evanston, Illinois USA