The development of mass produced, inexpensive, brass and steel clock mechanisms spurred industrialization in central Connecticut during the first half of the Nineteenth Century. It also led to the development of clockwork toys. George W. Brown was th
The development of mass produced, inexpensive, brass and steel clock mechanisms spurred industrialization in central Connecticut during the first half of the Nineteenth Century. It also led to the development of clockwork toys. George W. Brown was the linchpin that brought these two products together. He is credited as the maker of the first clockwork toy, a tin locomotive, in 1856.
At age 15, Brown left his home in Bolton to become an apprentice to the clockmaker J.C. Brown in the Forestville section of Bristol. This area of Connecticut was the location for many clockmakers, as well as tin makers. Edgar Pattison opened the first tin factory in nearby Berlin in the mid-Eighteenth Century. By the mid-Nineteenth Century there were tin shops in Berlin, New Britain, Meriden, Clinton and Cromwell, selling wares up and down the eastern seaboard. Clockwork mechanisms and tinware were the basis of the nascent Connecticut toy industry.
After spending 11 years learning clockmaking, Brown left that trade to begin a new business. With partner Chauncey Goodrich (another clockmaker), Brown founded George W. Brown & Company. They produced both mechanical and nonmechanical tin toys, as well as clocks. Brown, a very versatile entrepreneur, then took advantage of the discovery of oil in Pennsylvania. This made available a ready supply of kerosene for home lighting, leading to the start of another business. Lamp burners were needed and everyone wanted multiple kerosene lamps to light their homes. The Bristol Brass Company acquired Brownâs thriving burner business, making him a stockholder in the larger company.
Brown also had an artistic bent, judging by the watercolor drawings of some of his toys that he produced. Although the more intricate mechanical toys were not included in the George Brown Sketchbook, the quality of the drawings on his patent applications exceeded the artistry usually seen on those documents.
In 1869, he joined forces with the J&E Stevens Company of Cromwell, Conn. Stevensâ specialty was cast iron toys and banks, and by adding Brownâs tin toys, the Stevens & Brown Manufacturing Company would produce some of the most iconic toys of the Nineteenth Century.
Stevens & Brown utilized the American Toy Company on Park Place in New York City as their sales representative and warehouse and also sold by catalog. Though they may have sold in the order of 100,000 toys a year, they were considered a rather small company, especially when compared to the Ives, Blakeslee Company.
By 1880, Brown decided to leave the toy business and return to the Bristol Brass Co., probably a more lucrative endeavor than the toy business. Though his involvement was relatively brief, Brownâs impact on the American toy business and the field of toy collecting was enormous. He combined a mechanical mind with an artistic hand, resulting in some of the most prized American toys in collections today.