Post-WW2 was the ‘atomic age’ for children’s toys in America. Shockingly, one of the toys, the ‘Atomic Energy Kit’, came with tiny amounts of uranium and ‘uranium chemical’ as well as a piece of paper imbued with a low concentration of radium. Along with the kit was an instruction manual that taught kids all about the fascinating subject of radioactivity. The short-lived Atomic Energy Lab from Gilbert Toys allowed kids to carry out simple experiments with a handful of materials like uranium ore, a cloud chamber and a Geiger counter. This against a background of ‘Duck and Cover’ – the well-known film distributed throughout schools in America to warn children to do just that in the event of a nuclear attack.
Of course, American children (whose parents were rich enough) were able to respond to the threat of nuclear attack personally. A popular ‘atomic’ toys was the Murray ‘Atomic Missile’ pedal car, a chain-drive tricycle with a fibreglass and metal body, made between 1955 and 1963. You can certainly imagine 1950s kids who were lucky enough to find one under the christmas tree heading off outside to show those Russkies a thing or two.
But the earliest example, not so well-known, is this ‘Jet Mobile’ scooter.
1946 Jet Mobile scooter
made from a surplus World War 2 Practice Bomb
Apparently, during World War 2, the toy company Garton made practice bombs (among other items) for the US war effort. With a surplus of them after the war ended, they added wheels, handles and seats to sell them as children’s tricycles.
The tricycles appear to have been marketed under a variety of names. As well as ‘Sky Rider’, I’ve found ‘U-Ride-It Jet’ and ‘Jet Mobile’.
Many small concerns in Texas also bought the surplus practice bombs, where they were on sale for $1.50 each, and turned them into children’s tricycles. They appear to have used the ‘Jet Mobile’ name for theirs, with advertisements appearing after the war with sale prices around $7.95 (though one shows a much higher price of $12.95). The price dropped as low as $3.95 by 1947.
When I bought this Jet Mobile I found it had been roughly painted, so we restored it, and it’s now once more ready for service…
1945-1947 JET MOBILE SCOOTER
Murray’s ‘Atomic Missile’ tricycle had a large production run, but other rocket-shaped toys started to appear soon after the War. Even adult-size tricycles with engines pandered to this new fashion – the three-wheeled Davis, seen below, is from 1948.
1940s – 1960s: THE ATOMIC AGE
1946 SKY RIDER
DUCK & COVER
Atomic pictures with thanks to – http://revivalvintagestudio.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/mid-century-design-in-atomic-age-beauty.html
Jet Mobile adverts and info with thanks to – www.nebraskaaircrash.com
Restoration with thanks to Barry Sharman