Chicago Industrial History
Chicago Industrial History

Playskool MFG Co., est. 1928

Museum Artifact: Playskool Crib Rail Boat Toy, c. 1960

Made By: Playskool Manufacturing Company, 1750 N. Lawndale Ave.

“Next to baby-sitting grandmothers, the stylized wooden toys made by a Chicago firm called Playskool Manufacturing Co. may well be the greatest parent-savers of the age. Two-year olds have been known to play with a Playskool gadget for up to fifteen minutes without once bothering mommy or daddy—and that is about as long as any toy,

Tonk Brothers, est. 1873

Museum Artifact: Tonk Sterling Shankless Trumpet, c. 1920s

Made By: Tonk Brothers Company (Distributor), 623 S. Wabash Ave., connected with Tonk MFG Co., 2028 N. Clybourn Ave., Chicago, IL

In a 1966 interview with Life magazine, jazz legend Louis Armstrong told the tale of the first horn he ever bought as a young boy in New Orleans, circa 1916:

“I couldn’t get enough money together to even talk about a horn of my own— used to rent one for each gig,” he recalled.

E. J. Brach & Sons, est. 1904

Museum Artifact: Brach’s “Chocolates of Quality” Box, c. 1920s

Made By: E.J. Brach & Sons, 4656 W. Kinzie Street, Chicago, IL

“When my sons and I opened a little candy store forty years ago, we hoped folks would like our candy. But we never dreamed they’d like Brach candies so well we’d outgrow our little ‘Palace of Sweets’ in just a few brief years.

DeVry Corporation, est. 1913

Museum Artifact: DeVry 16mm Movie Camera, 1929

Made By: DeVry Corp. / QRS-DeVry Corp., 1111 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago, IL

“For three decades, Dr. Herman A. DeVry—the man who conceived the idea of projector portability—made a succession of engineering contributions to the progress of visual education that won him a place with Thomas A. Edison and George Eastman on the Honor Roll of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers.” —DeVry Corp.

Addressograph Company, est. 1893

Museum Artifact: Addressograph Print Ribbon Tins, c. 1920s

Made by: The Addressograph Company, 915 W. Van Buren St., Chicago, IL

“If tomorrow morning the Addressograph were set down in your office, any sixteen year-old boy or girl in your employ could readily operate it and by noon be addressing envelopes, cards, statements, payroll forms, anything, everything, at the rate of 1,000 an hour.

American Flyer MFG Co., est. 1907

Museum Artifact: Wide Gauge “Pocahontas” Electric Model Train Set with No. 4637 “Shasta” Locomotive, c. 1928, and O-Gauge Cast Iron Locomotive No. 3195, c. 1930.

Made by: American Flyer MFG Co., 2229 S. Halsted St., Chicago, IL

“Just Like Real Trains: The new 1928 American Flyer Rainbow Line radiates an atmosphere of supreme quality. Its exquisite beauty, realistic design, and skillful workmanship will instantly capture your admiration.

Sears, Roebuck & Co., est. 1893

Museum Artifact: “A Trip Through Sears Roebuck & Co.” – Set of 50 Stereoview Photo Cards, c. 1908

Made By: Sears, Roebuck & Company, 925 S. Homan Avenue, Chicago, IL

“Which company do you think has the most stores, the most customers, the most sales, the most profits – and at the same time is the most loved, the most far-flung, the most legendary,

Geo. B. Carpenter & Co., est. 1840

Museum Artifact: Nautical Lantern, 1910s

Made By: Geo. B. Carpenter & Company, 440 N. Wells St.

“Navigation lamp” or “nautical lantern” would be the more distinguished terms, but according to the official 1917 catalogue of George B. Carpenter & Co., the beat-up brass relic pictured above was actually categorized as a “motor boat light,” with a more specific designation as the “No. 5 Combination Light.” It originally would have included two separate Fresnel lenses (like the kind in a lighthouse),

Green Duck Company, est. 1906

Museum Artifact: Franklin D. Roosevelt Pinback Campaign Button, 1936

Made By: The Green Duck Company, 1725 W. North Ave., Chicago, IL

“We were as happy to be of service to the GOP as to the Democrats, and vice versa. Where politics is concerned, ‘I’m For Me’ and Green Duck is for Green Duck. That’s the way it’s got to be.” —Green Duck Company vice president Earl Butler,

W. D. Allen MFG Co., est. 1887

Museum Artifact: Allen “Red Arrow” and “The Ring” Lawn Sprinklers, c. 1940s

Made By: W. D. Allen MFG Co., 5650 W. Roosevelt Rd., Chicago, IL , offices at 566 W. Lake Street

W. D. Allen’s cast-iron “Red Arrow” lawn sprinkler first blasted off in the late 1930s, taking on an eventual space-rocket shape that landed it somewhere between the trends of Streamline Moderne and Atomic Age design.

Mars Inc., est. 1911

Museum Artifact: Snickers Candy Bar Display Box, 1958

Made By: Mars Incorporated, 2019 N. Oak Park Ave, Chicago, IL

“If you like peanuts and chocolate too, then Snick-Snick-Snickers is the bar for you!” –Mars advertising jingle, 1950s

Still consistently ranked among the top ten largest privately owned companies, of any kind, in the world, Mars Incorporated ($35 billion revenue in 2017) stands in stark contrast to most of the cherished but long-defunct Chicago confectioners of yore—a graveyard of ex-rivals that includes Curtiss,

Stewart-Warner Corp., est. 1905

Museum Artifact: Cadet Bicycle Speedometer and Stewart-Warner Television + Stand, 1950s

Made By: Stewart-Warner Corp., 1826 W. Diversey Pkwy, Chicago, IL

“The ‘Cadet’ Bike Speedometer is not a toy! It’s a precision instrument, just like the one on your Dad’s car! It’s made by famous Stewart-Warner, the same company that has made millions of speedometers for cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles.” —Stewart-Warner advertisement,

Geo. W. Diener MFG Co., est. 1899

Museum Artifact: Automatic Fire Extinguisher, c. 1920s

Made By: Geo. W. Diener MFG Co., 400-420 N. Monticello Ave., Chicago, IL

“Fire Insurance is always an unsatisfactory recompense for fire loss. Fire prevention is better. We manufacture everything for fire prevention and fire fighting.” –Geo. W. Diener MFG Co. advertisement, 1921

While only one of their names went on the banner,

Chicago Flexible Shaft Co., est. 1893

Museum Artifacts: Chicago Clipper (c. 1902), Stewart Clipper (c. 1910), Stewart Carriage Heater (c. 1908), and Rain King Sprinkler (c. 1920)

Made By: Chicago Flexible Shaft Co., LaSalle Ave. and Ontario St., Chicago, IL

Don’t be fooled by the rusty and rustic-looking artifacts pictured above. When the Chicago Flexible Shaft Company introduced its line of hand-cranked horse clippers and sheep shearers at the end of the 19th century,

Airguide Instrument Co., est. 1930

Museum Artifact: Airguide “Highlander” Wall Barometer and No. 36 Field Glasses, c. 1948

Made by: Airguide Instrument Co. / Fee & Stemwedel, Inc, 2210 W. Wabansia Ave.

“Into every Airguide instrument go the finest of materials, the painstaking care of skillful workers, and the thorough inspection of an exacting laboratory. No instrument leaves the factory until it has proved its dependability under conditions more severe than those actually encountered throughout the year.

Foley & Co., est. 1888

Museum Artifact: Foley Banner Salve, c. 1900s

Made By: Foley & Co., 319-333 W. Ohio St., Chicago, IL

John Burton Foley was one the many opportunistic men of the Gilded Age to find his fortune in proprietary medicines; aka, patent drugs—the “cure-alls” that required no scientific substantiation to sell to the public. The Made In Chicago Museum has tracked several similar quackery kingpins from this same era,