Engineering entrepreneur Joshua Lionel Cowen designed his first electric train as a store window attraction around 1900. When customers asked to purchase the train instead of the product it advertised, Cowen founded the Lionel Manufacturing Company to meet demand. Lionel built its reputation on train sets noted for their authentic detail, smooth-operating three-rail tracks, and transformers that allowed kids to vary the speed of their trains. Lionel's success continued into the middle of the twentieth century in spite of the Great Depression. When the United States entered World War II, much of the country's resources were dedicated to the war effort, and the Lionel company transformed its train production to the manufacture of compasses and similar instruments for the U.S. military. Lionel's promotions of the war years proclaimed "Lionel Steel Has Gone to War." Fearful that the public would forget Lionel's preeminence in the toy-train business, the company offered a cutout train made of sturdy paper. The train set was beautifully printed and exquisitely detailed, resembling the items (made of metal) of Lionel's prewar products. And, even though the box it came in boasted that the train was "ready to assemble," fitting together the 250 train pieces stored on 21 sheets of cardboard tested the patience of many boys and their fathers too. At war's end, Lionel returned to making electric trains for a generation of baby boomers.
|Material||cardboard | printed paper|
Online Collections by The Strong is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.