From croquet sets to wicker prams, dollhouses, and electronic toys, South Bend Toy Manufacturing Company is known for its ability to pivot to meet the changing world.
Founded 1874 in South Bend, Indiana by grocery clerk, Frederick Badet, and woodworker, John Teel.
The duo handcrafted croquet sets in a small workshop space.
Badet and Teel expanded in 1888 and named their business South Bend Toy Manufacturing Company.
The larger new location neighboured the Studebaker plant and the automobile manufacturer worked with the toy company to produce Studebaker-branded toy vehicles.
South Bend expanded its product line by introducing doll carriages made from willow in 1895 and became the leading manufacturer of doll carriages and croquet sets in the United States.
Its early success allowed the company to expand its catalogue to include dollhouses and furniture, hobby horses, ball bats, doll furniture, toy chests, baby prams, hampers, and other housewares.
During World War II, the toy factory converted production to make items that supported the United States military. Production of baby carriages could continue, as they were deemed an essential product.
After the way, the company reinstated the production of toys, games, and housewares.
Evolving the Brand
Chicago-based Playskool purchased South Bend Toy Manufacturing Company in 1960.
Milton Bradley acquired both South Bend Toy Manufacturing Company and Playskool in 1968.
South Bend Toy Manufacturing Company relocated to a larger facility in 1973. The new location housed the company’s offices and production factory and allowed room for future growth.
In support of the release of the film Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979, the toy company released the Star Trek Electronic Phaser Guns, the first toy of its kind to use infrared technology. They also produced the Electronic U.S.S. Enterprise and other Star Trek-branded toys.
At its height, South Bend Toy Manufacturing Company employed just over 400 people.
Milton Bradley closed South Bend Toy Manufacturing Company in 1985 due to the proliferation of more cheaply made toys from overseas manufacturers.
Toys to Remember
Original South Bend Toy Manufacturing Company objects are still in demand with collectors of Americana, toys, games, and vintage objects. Willow prams, early electronic toys, metal toy vehicles, and early product catalogues are among the most coveted items.