Toy Fire Engine

Cast-iron toys, such as this fire engine from about 1900, reflect many commonplace but often forgotten aspects of everyday life. The strength of the Museum's toy collection is an outstanding grouping of cast-iron and tinplate toys, 1870s to the 1950s, donated by Sears, Roebuck and Co. The collection was acquired by Sears, Roebuck and Co. from Kenneth Idle, a private collector. Gathered between 1915 and 1960, the collection numbers more than 1,400 cast-iron and tinplate examples of both American and European origins. Cast-iron toy manufacturers represented in this collection are Hubley, Kentontoys, and Kingsbury Toys. Subjects include the circus, horse-drawn vehicles, public transportation, mail delivery, home equipment, recreation, construction equipment, the farm, fire fighting, and police vehicles.
Cast-iron toys are essentially American. Small foundries and factories were mass-producing them towards the close of the 19th century. These toys were sold in novelty stores, department stores, or mail order catalogs. One can follow along with shifts in technology by recognizing the changes in the different models of Sears toys. During the first half of the 20th century, tractors almost completely displaced the horse on American farms—and on the toy counter. Toy motor trucks replaced horse-drawn vehicles. The toy manufacturers were alert to new models and designs of vehicle and appliance manufacturers.
Currently not on view
Object Name
fire engine
Object Type
toys (recreational artifacts)
Date made
ca 1900
Physical Description
black (horses in harness color)
black (pumper color)
white (pumper color)
yellow (horses in harness color)
yellow (pumper color)
iron, cast (horses in harness material)
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Family & Social Life
Cultures & Communities
Sports & Leisure
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Domestic Life
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Sears, Roebuck and Company

Visitor Comments

11/14/2012 12:20:33 PM
Bridget Valleu-Mull
My grandfather was commissioned by Sears to replicate this fire engine and many other toys to be donated to the Smithsonian. His name was Law Valleau. What if any info do you have about that? thank-you
7/16/2013 3:01:17 PM
National Museum of American History
Your inquiry about the Sears toys was forwarded to me in the Division of Home and Community Life. A search of the accession file for the Sears toy donation revealed no mention of Mr. Law Valleau. -BY
7/18/2013 3:17:45 PM
Gerald Harrington
It was Law and his son Warren Blake Valleau that produced the reproduction. I know as I directly involved in the project.
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