Nylint

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An antique toy power shovel by Nylint

The Nylint Corporation was founded in 1937 by Bernard Klint of Rockford, Illinois. His uncle, David Nyberg, supplied much of the initial capital to start the company. The company name of Nylint is a combination of both the Nyberg and Klint names. It was incorporated under the name “Nylint Tool and Manufacturing” and its initial operation was located at 5th Avenue and 13th Street in Rockford. Original founder Bernard (known as Barney) Klint and his wife Grace remained actively involved for nearly 60 years in this privately held company until their deaths in the mid-1990s.

A Brief Nylint History -- The Company’s Phases[edit]

Looking back on Nylint’s 60-plus year history, they survived by constantly evolving – changing their direction to meet the demands of the diverse toy market. One can see at least eight phases of their history. These phases, or “eras,” often overlap.

Early years[edit]

The company in its early years (1st Phase pre-World War II) was not a toy manufacturer, but rather a producer of kitchen utensils such as a cheese slicer, flour sifter and a gravy strainer. This tooling was purchased from the estate of another kitchenware manufacturer. Nylint also did special-order tooling work for other companies. For example, they produced refrigerator door handles and cast aluminum parts for the automobile industry. In 1940, the company moved to a larger location on 16th Avenue where it remained for 60 years. The initial pre-war phase of Nylint can be classified as the “Domestic Production Era.” (Phase 1: 1937-1941)

As with most manufacturers, World War II caused a shift in focus to making war-related products. During the war years, Nylint prospered while employing 50 employees who made anti-aircraft magazines and torpedo-related components for the Federal government. Nylint produced, almost exclusively, war-related products during its “Wartime Manufacturing Era.” (Phase 2: 1941-1945)

After the war, Nylint, like all manufacturing companies, worked to establish its post-war direction. After an extensive study in late 1945, the company chose to enter the toy-producing arena. This decision was made primarily because of Nylint’s possession of existing modern metal-stamping facilities, and it was felt that manufacturing metal toys was a solid choice. They made a commitment to produce toys and soon hired Carl Swenson, the inventor of a wind-up toy car with steering and directional actions. This innovational toy was based on a mechanism that was on the cutting edge of technology. The mechanism allowed the wind-up car to start/stop, go forward or backward, and to turn. Not only did the toy exhibit strong mechanical capabilities, it was attractively based on the real Chrysler Airflow design. Nylint called this toy the “Amazing Car.” When the company took this toy to the 1946 Toy Fair in New York City, it was a huge success with over 100,000 units ordered. Not only did Nylint have a solid product, it was marketed well — being packaged in an attractive box with a color picture of the toy on the outside. Additionally, the box included a diagram of the detailed motions the toy could perform. Believe it or not, most toy manufacturers did not picture their toys on the box during that period. After World War II there were several large manufacturers of pressed-steel toys in this country. In addition to Nylint, Tonka, Buddy-L, Structo, Smith-Miller, Doepke, Marx, and Wyandotte were some of the most successful. Others, including Tru-Scale, All-American, and Ertl, would later join the ranks of toy truck producers. Aside from Buddy-L, Marx, Structo, and Wyandotte, who had previously made toys, most of these companies started moving into toy manufacturing immediately after the war. From the get-go, there was a lot of intense competition.

1940s to 1950s[edit]

In the late-1940s and early-1950s, Nylint remained committed to these wind-up toys and soon produced a front-end loader wind-up, which resembled a forklift. Soon afterwards, they made a couple of motorcycle tin wind-ups, a street sweeper wind-up (resembling the actual Elgin machine) and a wind-up that resembled a popular TV icon -- Howdy Doody -- although Nylint never used the name to advertise the toy. The Elgin Street Sweeper, in particular, demonstrated to Nylint that success could be achieved by patterning toys after real-life vehicles. This phase is known as the “Wind-up Era.” (Phase 3: 1946-1952)

In 1951, Nylint entered its 4th phase—the “Heavy Construction Era” (Phase 4: 1951-1966) -- that dominated the company’s output during the 1950s. (some years it was the company’s exclusive output). Nylint started to make high-quality construction toys that were patterned after real construction machinery. Their first construction toy was patterned after the Tournarocker made by the R.G. LeTourneau Company of Peoria, Illinois. While this toy was high-quality, it did not exhibit the high price tag of toys made by Smith-Miller and Doepke at that time. Smith-Miller and Doepke, because of their high prices and increased competition, would soon be forced out of business. Nylint also introduced a second heavy construction toy in 1951, a large high-quality road grader. This toy, while very realistic, did not claim to be patterned after any specific manufacturer’s grader, although it did resemble an Adams grader of that time period.

In the immediate years to follow, through the mid-1960s, Nylint produced toys patterned after manufacturers such as LeTourneau, the J.D. Adams & Company of Indianapolis, the Frank G. Hough Company of Libertyville, Illinois, the Pettibone-Mulliken Corp. of Chicago, the Austin-Western Works of Aurora, Illinois, and the Clark Equipment Company of Benton Harbor, Michigan. Nylint was not shy about making their toys as realistic as possible, nor were they shy about giving credit to the real-life manufacturer of these construction vehicles. By the early-1950s, demand for quality toys was paramount as the first wave of post-war baby boomer boys (and girls) were hitting the ages of four to eight. Additionally, the amount of disposable income was then very high; likewise the demand for pressed-steel trucks and other toys for these children was at an all-time high.

For several years in the early to mid-1950s, Nylint made construction pieces exclusively. In 1956, Nylint started to take advantage of the country’s entrenchment in the Cold War military craze and began to enter phase 5 of its life cycle—the “Cold War Era” toys. (Phase 5: 1956-1961) For the most part, they followed their formula of success for the heavy construction toys—make dynamic products of high-quality, and realistic design. They made several missile-launching gun toys and even made an uncharacteristic plastic ballistic missile set. These military toys were action-packed with lots of operating features, and sold extremely well. Nylint also made a couple of battery-operated toys in this period including a modified version of the Elgin Street sweeper and a military Electronic Cannon truck.

During the late 1950s, Nylint’s construction toys, while still very high-quality and realistic, moved away slightly from the requirement that the toy had to be a replica of real-world equipment. Now, after the cold war phase ended in the early 1960s, Nylint returned to its strict “realistic” formula for its Phase 6 evolution. Interestingly, other toy companies were moving in the opposite direction—going to more generic or futuristic looking toys not patterned after real vehicles. This 6th phase, “Ford Motor Company Era,” (Phase 6: 1959–1974) began around 1959 and peaked about 1965 when Ford toys dominated the Nylint product line. This era lasted throughout the 1960s into the early-1970s. By 1962, Nylint was producing Ford toy replicas for Ford dealership promotions. Nylint was building excellent renditions of the Ford F-100 line of trucks, the Ford “C” tilt-cab, and the smaller Econoline series. By the mid-1960s the company would also make a very nice replica of the Ford Bronco series as well. Nylint was blatant about using the Ford label on its toys, stamping “Ford” on tailgates, above the grille, on hubcaps, depicting the Ford “Twin-I-Beam” badge, and making a nicely detailed hood decal. Its toys resembled the “real thing” very well. Some of these Ford toys were exclusives for the Ford dealers such as a Nylint pickup replica of a camper that housed a Philco AM radio, and was offered as an enticement to bring parents into the dealership for a test-drive.

During this phase, in addition to the Ford trucks and pickups, there were several nifty Nylint Ford jalopy hot rods being made.

1966 to 1976[edit]

Phase 7 represented Nylint’s movement away from totally realistic Ford trucks to more modern-looking toys—some with futuristic styling. This “Mod Styling Era” phase started about 1966 and by 1968 was a significant part of the Nylint Product line. “Mod Styling Era” (Phase 7: 1966-1976) With each passing year, Nylint’s Ford toy trucks, while still being manufactured to resemble a full-scale truck, lost some of their Ford detail identity. “Ford” was removed from hubcaps and the Ford hood decal disappeared. New toys introduced during Phase 7 were either of the “turbine” cab style or other modern 1970s look. (especially the new hot rods) Many were painted in fluorescent colors popular during that time. As part of a popular and successful marketing strategy, many toys in this era were being geared towards girls with brightly painted color schemes and animal accessories. Although toys from this era may not be as collectible as earlier toys, Nylint’s profits during this period showed their willingness to change with the developing market.

By 1974, Nylint had only one truck that resembled a Ford, the Ford U-Haul Maxi-Mover. All the rest of its line was generic or of the “Mod” look. However, that year Nylint did introduce a few realistic toy models patterned after the Chevrolet truck cab.

After the mid-1970s, Nylint entered into its 8th phase—the “Private Label Collectible Era.” (Phase 8: 1976 and beyond) The company still continued to have some generic toys in its product line as well as toys patterned after Chevy trucks. (which were part of the lineup through the early 1980s) Nylint operated for an additional 25 years making many realistic toys patterned after real-world trucks using actual corporate logos. Nylint made toy replica truck/trailer rigs for hundreds of companies. Most of these rigs used a truck cab resembling a GMC Cabover or a Conventional Freightliner, although a newer Ford Conventional cab was patterned as well. Actually, Nylint, in the mid-'70s, was one of the first toy manufacturers to jump on the “collectible bandwagon” and it was a significant part of their output during their last 25 years of existence. Nylint continued to make many other “non-collectible” toys during this period as well, but the collectible market was certainly one of its staples.

1970s to present

Through the 1970s and into the 21st century, Nylint had continued to make pressed-steel trucks. Meanwhile, most of the other popular pressed-steel producers had gone out of business, were bought out by larger companies, or chose to enter other toy-making arenas. The briefly released a series of moderately successful Thomas the Tank Engine toys in the early to mid-1990s.

End of an Era[edit]

In January 2001, declining sales forced Nylint to file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection. But some operations continued. In April 2001, Funrise Toy Corporation of California bought Nylint Corporation securing the rights to the Nylint branding. All of Nylint's new inventory and current toy molds were moved from the Rockford, Illinois headquarters to Funrise's operations, officially ending Nylint's production of toys. Finally, in June 2001, all remaining Nylint assets including many vintage toys, some metalworking machines, a few vehicles and office equipment were sold at auction at its headquarters in Rockford, Illinois. The facility was then shuttered. An era of 55 years of Nylint toymaking had ended.

While firm employment numbers are elusive, it is believed Nylint employed nearly 400 people during its manufacturing peak in the early 1970s. But by the time Funrise had announced its purchase of Nylint, only about 80 people remained. Still, Nylint managed to remain a self-owned, independent toy company for a decade longer than one of its main competitors, Tonka Toys, which was bought by Hasbro in 1991. Hasbro still produces Tonka branded toys.

A hydraulics business, which supplies parts for the construction vehicle industry, now occupies the former Nylint headquarters.

Nylint reappears briefly[edit]

The Nylint brand reappeared again in summer of 2005. The creation by Funrise was called the Nylint Rock Crawler—a remote controlled, four-wheel drive vehicle designed for ultra-rugged terrain. It was available in 1/6 scale and 1/18 scale. It enjoyed good sales and was produced until late 2007.

As of November 2012, no new Nylint branded toys were being produced.

References[edit]

  • Bostrom's Vintage Nylint Toy Guide: A Guide For Vintage Nylint Toy Collectors
  • McElwee's Nylint Collector's Guide, 1946–1970, Neil & Lois McElwee
  • Sakowsky, Alan, Nylint Pressed-Steel Toy Collector and Specialist
  • Zanker, James, Nylint Pressed-Steel Toy Collector and Specialist
  • VanGundy, Alan, Pressed-Steel Toy Collector and Specialist
  • Rockford Register Star—articles from January 2001-June 2001
  • Larsen, Doug, Nylint Pressed-Steel Toy Collector, historical researcher
  • Giordani, Rick, Pressed-Steel Toy Collector and largest Nylint truck collection in S. California