The Accidental Toy Empire

Mound Metalcraft was created in Mound, Minnesota by three partners in 1946. The burgeoning company’s first products were metal tie-racks and subsequent designs focused on gardening equipment. Fortuitously, the previous occupant of Mound Metalcraft’s building was the Streater Company, which had made and patented a few toys, though owner E.C. Streater wasn’t interested in going into the toy business and approached Mound Metalcraft with an offer to buy his toy patents. The partners of the fledgling company thought they might make some extra money with a sideline in toys and took Sleater up on his offer. After adapting the designs slightly and branding them with the Dakota Sioux word “tonka,” meaning “great,” the first Tonka truck toy was created.

Unlike Mound Metalcraft’s gardening supplies, the Tonka trucks became wildly popular and the company changed its name to Tonka Toys Incorporated and made their metal toys their primary business. In subsequent decades, Tonka created extremely popular toys based on trucking services and construction vehicles, including semi trucks, tow trucks, fire trucks, tankers and diggers of all kinds.

Of course, by the 1990s, the steel trucks that made Tonka a household name had been replaced by plastic, and in 1991 the company was purchased by Hasbro. Sony Pictures Animation currently owns the film rights to the Tonka name and is currently working with Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions to bring the famous trucks to the silver screen, so expect a brand-recognition romp appearing in theatres soon.

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