‘THERE WILL ALWAYS BE BABIES BORN’
The above quote is attributed to Frank Ginn, a member of Murray Ohio Mfg Co’s board of directors, who obviously saw the potential market for toys clearly. Murray was the largest American manufacturers of pedal cars, the basis of their success being a simple strategy: they made quality products with innovative designs at reasonable prices.
The company diversified from automotive products into the toy car market in the 1920s, enabling them to weather the Depression in the late twenties while other sheet metal suppliers to the automobile industry went out of business.
Murray received a large order in 1936 from Sears & Roebuck for bicycles and wheeled toys. As a result, the company entered the bicycle market, creating one of America’s top brands – the Mercury – with styling by leading automotive designers of the day. Like the futuristic designs of the Mercury bicycle, their Steelcraft wheeled toys also received that magic styling ingredient that ensured the company’s place at the top of the toy market.
Murray had used the name ‘Playboy Trucking Co’ from the early 1930s for a range of small pressed steel model trucks.They made several varieties of this new wagon under the Steelcraft banner, the leading versions being the Skippy and the Playboy.
Coaster wagons were traditional toys, popular since the 19th century, made as miniature wagons for tiny children to pull or to lie on and coast down hills. Murray’s new steel ‘Playboy’ completely revolutionised the design of the coaster wagon, bringing its style firmly into the 1930s, and was responsible for giving this type of toy a new lease of life.
An interesting aspect of Murray’s Steelcraft Playboy is that they used this name only until the outbreak of WW2, when production of pedal cars and wheeled toys topped. In 1947, the name was adopted by the Playboy Motor Car Corporation for their new small car (below). But that company only lasted for a few years. Hugh Hefner resurrected the name in 1953 for his new magazine …and the Playboy name was no longer associated with children’s toys.
1937 Steelcraft Playboy Speed Car
Ball Bearing Direct Drive
(Murray Ohio Mfg Co)
Murray’s Steelcraft pedal car range was a top seller for Sears Roebuck. Coaster Wagons were bought by younger children. Steelcraft’s new range of ‘Irish mail’ style coasters established a new fashion for streamlined hand cars. They were only made until WW2, a period of five years. This is the full-fendered ‘Irish Mail’ style of Playboy: as you can see in the 1937 illustration below, from that year their decals describe them as the ‘Playboy Speed Car.’
MURRAY STEELCRAFT PLAYBOY
The 1936 advert above illustrates the basic Playboy coaster wagon (note its decal is the same as the Speed car featured here). The ‘Irish Mail’ style of Playboy – it motivated by push and pull action – is shown in the 1937 advert, below. They were offered in two styles, chain drive and direct drive, and their decals described them as the ‘Playboy Speed Car.’
By 1938 (below) the ‘Speed’ name was being used to replace the name ‘Irish Mail.’ Another description was ‘Hand car’ and a new variation called the ‘Doodlebug’ was introduced.
Initially the term ‘playboy’ was used in the 18th century for boys who performed in the theatre, and later it appears in the 1828 Oxford Dictionary to characterize a person with money who is out to enjoy himself. By the end of the 19th century it also implied the connotations of gambler and musician. By 1907, in the comedy The Playboy of the Western World, the term had acquired the notion of a womaniser. The term reached its full meaning in the interwar and early post WWII years. Postwar intercontinental travel allowed playboys to meet at international nightclubs and famous playgrounds such as the Riviera or Palm Beach where they were trailed by reporters (immortalised in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita) who supplied the tabloids with material to be fed to an eager audience. Their conquests were rich, beautiful, and famous. In 1953, Hugh Hefner caught the wave and created Playboy magazine. The first issue (below) featured Marilyn Monroe.
UNDERNEATH A BALL-BEARING PLAYBOY
PLAYBOY SPEEDCAR v STREAMLINE TRICYCLE
Playboy magazine info thanks to – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Playboy_(lifestyle)