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. One of the most 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.
Another example, predating Murray’s ‘Atomic Missile’ and not so well-known, is this ‘Sky Rider’.
1950s Garton Sky Rider Tricycle
made from surplus World War 2 Practice Bomb
When estimating the age of toys from America’s ‘Atomic Age’ of design, the primary consideration, apart from styling, is whether it contains plastic and fibreglass. This example is made of metal and wood, suggesting late 1940s or early 1950s construction.
Apparently, during World War 2, Garton made practice bombs (among other items for the 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’.
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
DUCK & COVER
Atomic pictures with thanks to – http://revivalvintagestudio.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/mid-century-design-in-atomic-age-beauty.html
PHOTO LOCATIONS: Rottingdean beach & Falmer village pond