Pull toys have been enjoyed by children for centuries and have been made from a variety of materials ranging from wood to clay to cast iron. These toys feature a string that is about 4 feet long that is designed to pull the toy along. Pull toys have generally been enjoyed by preschool-age children who are steady walkers, usually 18 months old or older.
Pull toys go back to ancient Egypt and Greece and date back to 2000 B.C. Early examples of clay animal toys with wheels attached to the legs were perhaps some of the first pull toys. The ability to pull the animal along added a dimension of movement not found with other kinds of toys.
Tinplate Pull Toys
Tinplate pull toys were first manufactured in the United States in the mid- to late 1800s. Tin plate is made from very thin sheets of steel that have been plated with tin. This material was both durable and lightweight. While the metal edges of tin plate pull toys would not meet today's safety standards, they were enthusiastically manufactured during the industrial revolution. In the 1880s, spring-driven toys, including pull toys, became popular.
Cast iron wheels and other elements were used in conjunction with tin plate to create children's pull toys in the mid-1800s. After the Civil War, toys made entirely of cast iron became more common. Since molds were used to manufacture these toys, they could be easily mass produced. Some toys were simple carts and rolling vehicles that were propelled by hand, while others came equipped with the traditional pull toy string.
The W.S. Reed Toy company began producing wooden pull toys in Leominster, Pennsylvania, in 1875. The company was known for its bright and detailed decorations. These decorations were a result of lithographed paper that was adhered to the wood.
The Lego corporation got its start manufacturing quality wooden pull toys along with other wooden vehicles. Beginning as a way to supplement his income during hard times, Ole Kirk Christiansen of Jutland, Denmark, began the Lego company in his carpentry workshop in 1932. As economic times improved, Christensen continued to build his fledgling toy business and eventually grew it into a major player in the toy market.
Today's Pull Toys
There are many manufacturers that still make pull toys. Classic Fisher Price pull toys that are still available today include the Chatter Telephone, Dr. Duck, Snoop 'n Sniff Hound, Pull-a-Tune xylophone and the Bouncy Bee.