Hopewell Toys of the 1920s

Hopewell was the home of the Hoproco toy company in the 1920s, which manufactured a variety of metal toys that are still popular with collectors.

But what were toys like in the 1920s? And how did the Hoproco products fit into the market? We can get a sense of this by looking at the toys, and from newspapers of the period.

The associated presentation, Hoproco – Hopewell’s 1920s Toy Company, November 2, 2020 explored the story of Hoproco in Hopewell, and included exhibits with examples of these century-old toys and hear about Hoproco in Hopewell.

Toys of the 1920s

New Castle Pa. News 12/5/1928

The 1920s saw the beginning of mass-produced toys, especially from metal. These included construction sets such as Tinkertoys (59¢) and Lincoln Logs (50¢ to $1), as well as a proliferation of vehicles, from cars and trucks and trains to boats and planes.

The decade also saw the popularization of brand-name toys that we still recognize today, including Raggedy Ann ($1), Teddy Bears (79¢), Erector Sets ($1 to $10), Crayola Crayons (5¢), the Yo-yo (5¢), and the Radio Flyer wagon ($2.99).

During the decade, the Erector Set was the first toy to include a motor, and the first to use a national ad campaign. And the Yo-yo was mass-produced at 300,000 units a day. Then in 1927 the invention of polystyrene opened a new world of toy design and manufacturing, using tough and durable plastic.

Hoproco Toys

Brooklyn Daily Eagle 6/22/1925

The Hoproco toys were manufactured from metal, using machinery to print, cut, fold, and assemble each product. They were sold among a large variety of similar toys, not branded with the company name, and not even strongly branded with the product name. As a result, it’s difficult to find discussions or ads on the Hoproco products in the newspapers of the time.

For example, see the wide range of products in this June 1925 Sea Shore toys ad for Frederick Loeser & Co. in the Brooklyn N. Y. Daily Eagle. There are shovels and pails for 98¢ to $1.89, outdoor games for 98¢ to $2.75, and a variety of sand boats for 50¢ to $1.90. Most of these products are generic – there are no company names, and only a few branded products, including the Apple Tree Swings, Brownie Horse Shoe Game, and Sea Hawk Sand Boats.

But near the bottom of the ad is the “Buddy Sand Sled” listed at 25¢, the lowest price on the page. This is presumably the Hoproco product, which was on the market at the time. (The Buddy name came from one of the sons of the Pierson family, who owned and ran the business.)

Hoproco Buddy Sand Sled [Kianka]

The Buddy Sand Sled was a very simple product – a rectangular tin sled / flat boat with an upcurved front, and “no sharp corners.”  It was a beach toy for small tots that could be used on sand or in water, which also included an 8-inch shovel and “tow-line” string (“Carries water and sand – and floats”). Hoproco continually refined the Sand Sled product, updating the design to add lithographed line drawings, and then full color.

Hoproco also released several other more complex toys, including the wind-up Hopewell Flyer dirigible for 25¢ by 1926 (“Flies in 6-foot circle on a thread 8 feet long”) and the spinning Hopewell E-Z-Go-Round carousel for $1 by 1928 (“Six brightly colored horses and riders in carnival colors”) – with a “Hopewell” banner flying on top.

Hoproco In The Market

Hoproco, the Hopewell Products Company, operated in Hopewell from 1923 to 1928 from its factory building on Burton Avenue. The company was founded by Dr. Theodore A. Pierson, with his son, Theodore A. Pierson, Jr. as president and general manager.

The company was successful. We have evidence from newspaper ads of the five known products being sold from 1925 through 1928. At least some of these products were sold through New York City distributors. The newspapers with ads for the products span Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, North Carolina, and even Hawaii.

However, the Pierson family descendants reports that ultimately the company was too big of an operation for the smaller markets, and yet too small for the large markets, including the large toy stores in New York City. Since the management was not willing to invest to expand to the level needed to supply large orders, the company closed down in 1929.

But we still have these fascinating toys to enjoy today.

Hoproco Toys

Please contact us if you have – or know of – these kinds of historical Hopewell materials and information that we can save and share before they are lost – from photos and documents to mementos and memories.

More on Hoproco Toys

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 History

Video / Presentation




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