Yes, Hopewell did have a toy company, albeit a short-lived one. Hoproco, the Hopewell Products Company, operated from 1923 to 1929 at 18 Burton Avenue in Hopewell, manufacturing metal and wooden mechanical toys and novelties.
We know of only five toys that were manufactured by Hoproco, circa 1925 to 1928.
These products are nicely designed and constructed, and are still attractive to toy collectors – The “Hopewell Flyer” dirigibles, originally priced at 25 cents, have recently sold on eBay for over $60 and $70.
These products also can be found in a handful of newspaper advertisements from 1925 through 1928, in papers spanning the U. S., west from Pennsylvania and even to Hawaii.
Thanks to collectors Larry & Cindi Kianka, Mary Briggs, Mary Ellen Devlin, David McCandless, and Craig Thompson, we now have some 45 images of all five of these products (plus some variants), along with many of the original boxes and promotional product sheets.
The Hoproco Toys
We know of five toys manufactured by Hoproco, circa 1925 to 1928. This information comes from the toys, retail product sheets, product boxes, and some newspaper advertisements during this period.
== Read the full history brief on the Hoproco Tin Toys (1920s) ==
Buddy Sand Sled – 12″ Sled / Boat
The Buddy Sand Sled is a non-mechanical rectangular tin sled / flat boat with an upcurved front, and “no sharp corners.” It is designed as a beach toy for small tots, to drag on water or sand, or to float as a boat. It is “brightly decorated in attractive colors and packed individually with an 8-inch shovel and a Tow-line” (to attach to the hole in front).
The Sled is 12 by 4 inches, and 1 1/2 inches deep. It retailed at 25 cents.
There are four known versions of the Sled: Two variants each of a plain design with a single color (green and yellow), and two variants of a lithographed design with scenes of children playing with the toy on the beach (line drawing and full color).
Hopewell Flyer – 9″ Dirigible
The Hopewell Flyer is a 9 inch tin toy dirigible / airship. It has a wind-up spring motor in the gondola underneath to turn the 4 1/2 inch rear propeller.
It is hung from the ceiling on a 8 foot thread (attached to the hole on top) and then flies around in a 6 foot circle.
The dirigible is light green with red trim, and a blue star in a red circle near the rear. It retailed at 25 cents.
Hopewell Twin Flyers – Spinning Dirigible
The Hopewell Twin Flyer is a whirling mechanical toy that spins a pair of dirigibles around a tower.
The same Hopewell Flyer dirigibles (but with the motor for the propeller removed) are suspended at opposite ends of a crossbar mounted on a three-legged pedestal. Pull the cord on the base to spin; the pull-string is self-retracting.
It is approximately 12 inches wide by 11 inches high, with two 9 inch dirigibles. It retailed at $1.00.
Hopewell E-Z-Go-Round – Carousel
The Hopewell “E-Z-Go-Round,” is another spinning toy, a merry-go-round / carousel with “six brightly colored horses and riders in carnival colors,” topped with a metal “Hopewell” pennant with gold lettering.
Like the Twin Flyers, pull the cord on the base to spin; the pull-string is self-retracting.
The carousel is made from “light gauge sheet iron gayly lithographed,” with the outline of the figures cut from the base floor and bent up.
It is 8 inches in diameter, and 7 inches high. It retailed at $1.00.
Indoor Golf – Board Game
Hoproco also made at least one board game – The Indoor Golf game board has a heavy wooden frame with a printed golf course scene showing one composite hole, which is played eighteen times from different distances for each “hole” on the course. Then for each turn, the player selects one of the five spinners on the board that represent different clubs.
The box has a tartan design on the top with the product label, and also includes scoring pads and four “golf ball” playing pieces. The board is 10 by 20 inches.
As a prize for tournaments, the instructions also offer “a miniature, gold-lined, silver-plated loving cup 3 inches high,” available by mail for $2.50, postage prepaid.
The Hoproco Company
In 1923, Dr. Theodore A. Pierson formed Hoproco, with his son, Theodore A. Pierson, Jr., as president and general manager. The company planned to manufacture metal and wooden mechanical toys and novelties.
In the early years, the company manufactured other products, including “Necklaces and Ear Rings” (sold at the local Cutter’s Rexall Drug Store) and “Silencers for Closed Car Doors” (presumably to reduce vibration, rattles and road noise).
Not much more is known about the company and its products besides the remaining toys and a handful of newspaper advertisements – although some of the products were intriguingly numbered on the product literature, from the single Flyer (#22) to the E-Z-Go-Round (#33).
The toys appear to have been sold around 1925 to 1928. The company itself only operated from 1923 to 1928. The Pierson family reports that “[Theodore A. Pierson, Jr.] said that they were fairly successful and approached large toy stores in NYC to sell their toys, but could not meet the magnitude of the orders that those stores would require to carry those items. He had said that the problem was that they were too big of an operation for the smaller markets and too small for the large markets, and they were not willing to invest to expand to the level needed to supply the large orders.”
The Burton Ave. Factory
The factory building at 18 Burton Avenue was originally built as a sash and blind factory in 1897 by John G. Burton, who then also was a stair builder and did general house construction.
Burton died in 1916 after a dispute with Hopewell Borough over his artesian well on the property, which was being diverted after the Borough set up its own wells across Burton Ave. (at the current Public Works site).
The property then passed through Edwin F. Stewart, who was the borough engineer, to Dr. Pierson.
In 1928, Dr. Pierson sold the toy factory business, then known as the “Hopewell Manufacturing Co.,” to Josef August Dinger and Hans Dinger. The Dingers apparently continued to produce toys for a time, selling “sleds, Merry-go-rounds, airships, shovels, calling banks, other items for children.”
After the 1929 Wall Street crash the Dinger brothers converted the business to ornamental iron work (having learned the craft as young men in Germany). In 1945, the Dinger Brothers Iron Works moved to 803 Liberty Street in Trenton.
In 1946, the B & K Manufacturing Corp. purchased the factory property from the Piersons. B & K was the business of Albert H. Benson, who ran an awnings and custom upholstering and refinishing business there for over twenty years.
In 1969, Samuel and Rita McDowell purchased the factory property from the B & K Manufacturing Corp. Samuel McDowell was a former Princeton High School art teacher who formed The Country Mouse gift shop in Princeton in 1960. His drawing of a hayseed mouse became the shop’s motif. The McDowells used the Burton Ave. building as a warehouse.
In 1973, painter Kenneth McIndoe and ceramic artist Connie Bracci-McIndoe purchased the factory property from Samuel and Rita McDowell and renovated it into their residence and studios.
The original post and beam building had been stripped and needed major renovations, including electricity, plumbing, floors, studding, insulation, and drywall. The exterior of the house was covered with red roofing singles nailed over the original tongue and groove vertical exterior.
== Read the full history brief on 18 Burton Avenue – Stair / Toy Factory (1897) ==
Thanks again to the toy collectors and other contributors for kindly sharing their information and images.
We welcome additional information and materials on Hoproco to share.
More on Hoproco
Hoproco, the Hopewell Products Company, operated from 1923 to 1929 at 18 Burton Avenue in Hopewell, and is still remembered for the five known metal toys it created.
- Hoproco – Hopewell’s 1920s Toy Company – Summary of the company and the toys
- Hopewell Toys of the 1920s – More on toys of the period and how Hoproco fit into the market
- Hoproco – Hopewell’s 1920s Toy Company – Talk & Exhibits – Talk description
- Hoproco Toy Company – Video and References – Talk video and references
- Talk Video – Hoproco – Hopewell’s 1920s Toy Company – 11/2022 (YouTube)
- Talk Slides – Hoproco – Updated version of the presentation slides (PDF)
- Hoproco History Brief – Hoproco Tin Toys (1920s) (PDF)
- Factory History Brief – 18 Burton Avenue – Stair / Toy Factory (1897) (PDF)
- Handout – Hoproco Toys Handout (PDF) – One page summary of the five Hoproco toys
- Image Gallery – Hoproco Toys album – 45+ images of the toys and materials
- History Map – 18 Burton Avenue – Property map and historical images