As you may have gathered by now, from previous posts, I’m a bit of a collector. Not necessarily a collector of anything in particular, or of anything with any real value attached to it. Typically, my finds come from the ground or from the shelves of thrift stores, they tend to have the same patina (old, worn, used and broken), and come from a time in history that I have no concept of—well, because I wasn’t around yet. I’ve always been fascinated by nostalgic objects, a characteristic I’ve always attributed to growing up in one of those hundred year old houses decorated with era-appropriate furniture and books and wallpaper, etc. I believe this is why I spend so much wandering thrift stores and antique shops—trying to connect to a time I’m unconnected to.
To the item at hand. I was in one of my favorite Tucson thrift haunts last year, when I came across this fantastic toy. By today’s standards, toy, would be polite. More likely it would be a choking hazard, with sharp edges with a rotating metal grinder. But I digress. Working at the time, in the Jack Sinclair Letterpress Lab at the University of Arizona, I was in the process of falling in love with the letterpress when I came across this fifties era Louis Marx & Company toy printing press. Measuring 10″ x 6″ x 5.5″, the press came (back in the day), with ink, a cloth-covered wooden inking roller (now dried out), moveable rubber type, and the press. The press itself features a two color litho, illustrating the gears, a ruler, and even an oil can. Fully working, paper could be cut to size, type set on the drum, ink placed on the roller, and a print could be cranked right through. Quite impressive for a sixty year old toy.
The Louis Marx & Company, at the time in the fifties, was the largest toy company in the world. Founded and based in New York, the company operated from 1919 up to 1978. When television became a household item in the fifties, the Marx Co. began to slide, not for their products, but for their lack of advertising insight. With sales of $50 million in 1955, Marx spent only $312.00 on advertisements. The company would hang on and eventually be sold in 1972 to the Quaker Oats Company, who at the time, had other holdings in the toy industry. Destined to remain ignorant of past faults, the company ignored the influx of electronic toys to the market, falling further and further behind competitors. Ultimately the company was sold to a British conglomerate towards the end of the seventies, but in the end, failed.