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For other uses, see Tonka (disambiguation).
Industry Toys and games
Founded Mound, Minnesota, United States (1946)
Founder Lynn Everett Bake,
Avery F. Crounse,
Alvin F. Tesch
Key people
Russell L. Wenkstern[1]
Parent Hasbro
Tonka Toys
1960s Tonka truck.
1978 model Tonka bottom dump truck

Tonka is an American toy company most known for its signature toy trucks and construction equipment.[2][3]


On September 18, 1946, Mound Metalcraft was created in Mound, Minnesota with three men as partners, Lynn Everett Baker (1898–1964), Avery F. Crounse, and Alvin F. Tesch. The first products produced by the fledgling company were two versions of a metal tie-rack. Their original intent was to manufacture garden implements. Their building's former occupant, the Streater Company, had made and patented several toys. E.C. Streater was not interested in the toy business so they approached Mound Metalcraft. The three men at Mound Metalcraft thought they might make a good side line to their other products.[4]

After some modifications to the design by Alvin Tesch and the addition of a new logo created by Erling Eklof with the Dakota Sioux word "Tanka" or Tonka, which means "Great" or "Big", the company began selling metal toys. This soon became the primary business.[5] On November 23, 1955, Mound Metalcraft changed its name to Tonka Toys Incorporated. The logo at this time was an oval, showing the Tonka Toys name in red above waves, presumably honoring nearby Lake Minnetonka.[6]

The impact of the Tonka truck concept has been enduring and pervasive, especially the Mighty Dump Truck and associated "Mighty" line of construction equipment models introduced from 1964. The all-metal "Tonka Trucks" were sold throughout the world and earned a reputation as being indestructible, although the steel has been increasingly replaced by plastic from the late 1980s onwards.

In 1987 Tonka purchased Kenner Parker, including UK toy giant Palitoy, for $555 million, borrowing extensively to fund the acquisition. However, the cost of servicing the debt meant Tonka itself had to find a buyer and it was eventually acquired by Hasbro in 1991.[7][8][9][10][11][12]

In 2001, Tonka trucks were inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong in Rochester, New York.[13]

Other products[edit]

Tonka has produced a wide variety of toys over the years, including dolls (Star Fairies, Bathing Beauties, Maple Town, and Hollywoods) and other toys aimed at girls like Keypers and aimed at boys like Gobots, Rock Lords, Spiral Zone, and Steel Monsters. It was also the original manufacturer of the Pound Puppies toy line, and in the late 1980s were the U.S. licensees of products inspired by Maple Town, an animated series from Japan's Toei Dōga.

Tonka also produced a variety of video games, including Tonka Raceway, and purchased the rights to distribute and market the Sega Master System after Sega of America decided to stop competing against the Nintendo Entertainment System in the U.S. However, the Master System's market share declined, since Tonka didn't have experience with video games or how to market them.

Hasbro sold the digital gaming rights for various properties (including My Little Pony, Magic: The Gathering, Tonka, Playskool, and Transformers) to Infogrames for US$100 million in 2000, buying back the rights for US$66 million in June 2005.[14]

In 1964, Tonka acquired the Mell Manufacturing Company in Chicago, allowing Tonka to expand into producing barbecue grills, eventually under the "Tonka Firebowl" label.[15][16]

The Winifred Museum in Winifred, Montana, has a collection of more than 3,000 Tonka toys, possibly the largest collection in the world, according to the museum.[17]

Maisto International, which makes diecast vehicles, acquired the rights to use the Tonka name in a line of 1:64 scale diecast vehicles, featuring mostly trucks.


  1. ^ Published: January 22, 2000 (January 22, 2000). "Russell L. Wenkstern, 87, Toy Chief and Dump Truck Co-Developer - New York Times". Retrieved October 22, 2012. 
  2. ^ ANTHONY RAMIREZPublished: February 1, 1991 (February 1, 1991). "Tonka Accepts Offer From Hasbro - New York Times". Retrieved October 17, 2012. 
  3. ^ Townsend, Allie (February 16, 2011). "Tonka Truck - History's Best Toys: All-TIME 100 Greatest Toys". TIME. Retrieved October 17, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Tonka`s Troubles Nothing To Toy With As Ghostbusters Line Fades". Chicago Tribune. August 19, 1990. Retrieved October 17, 2012. 
  5. ^ Dennis David and Lloyd Laumann, Tonka (MBI Publishing Company, 2004) p14
  6. ^ "Tonka Logo". Retrieved October 17, 2012. 
  7. ^ Wojahn, Ellen (2003) Playing by Different Rules: The General Mills/Parker Brothers Merger" New York: Beard Books
  8. ^ Silverstein, Stuart (February 1, 1991). "Hasbro Agrees to Buy Ailing Tonka in Big Toy Merger". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 17, 2012. 
  9. ^ Bradsher, Keith (September 5, 1987). "Tonka Makes Friendly Bid to Acquire Kenner Parker". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 17, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Tonka Predicts Large Losses, Explores Sale : Retailing: The nation's third-largest toy maker is burdened with huge debt from its purchase of Kenner Parker Toys.". Los Angeles Times. September 4, 1987. Retrieved October 17, 2012. 
  11. ^ APPublished: May 14, 1991 (May 14, 1991). "Tonka Headquarters to Close - New York Times". Retrieved October 17, 2012. 
  12. ^ ANTHONY RAMIREZPublished: February 1, 1991 (February 1, 1991). "Tonka Accepts Offer From Hasbro". The New York Times. Retrieved October 17, 2012. 
  13. ^ "Tonka Trucks". National Toy Hall of Fame. Retrieved May 19, 2013. 
  14. ^ Hasbro Reacquires Digital Gaming Rights From Infogrames for $66 Million, Hasbro press release, June 8, 2005.
  15. ^ Dennis David, Lloyd L. Laumann, Tonka, 2004, MBI Publishing Company, pp. 85–6, ISBN 0-7603-1868-9
  16. ^ Life magazine ad, May 27, 1966, 2Neat Magazines
  17. ^ "Winifred Museum - Russell Country Montana". Retrieved October 22, 2012. 

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