Turn on a Dime: J. C. Turner Dump Truck, ca. 1930s

An appealing aspect of seeking out unusual items is gaining insight into a previous era through its objects. Consumer demand evolves, as does the ability of manufacturers to cost-effectively produce the lines they build, market and distribute. As a result, we can backtrack to the demise of products that were weeded out due to the natural selection of the marketplace.

At a time when U.S. manufacturing had not yet been siphoned away by the war effort of the 1940s, or outsourced to cheaper overseas production locations, a multitude of companies such as Marx, Keystone, Buddy L, Structo and Wyandotte, to name a few, created large-scale steel toys. Today, if similarly substantial mass-produced toys exist, chances are they’re plastic.

The John C. Turner Co. of Wapakoneta, Ohio, was established in 1915 and specialized in flywheel friction steel toys. The pictured example, a classic dump truck, still retains much of its original paint finish, which covers the automotive-grade steel used to construct this piece. The correct wheels and functioning lift mechanism just add to this 27-inch-long behemoth.

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