Making Tin Can Toys

by Edward Thatcher 1919

Tin Toy Army Truck


Tin can toys were invented after a fruitless search of the toy shops for a large tin locomotive. I had a long can in my shop at home that I thought could be very easily worked up into a toy locomotive boiler by adding a few fittings, such as a piece of tin rolled up into the form of a smokestack. Part of a small can could be used for a steam dome, or I could use the top part of a certain tooth-powder can, the distributor top of which would look very much like a whistle. A cocoa tin came in very handy for a cab, and a thumb-tack box served for a headlight. The wheels were made of can lids soldered together, and the toy locomotive was made, much to the joy of my very young son, who has had it in constant service for over a year, and it is still good for many trips at the end of a string.

I had always used tin cans for making such articles as water motors, glue pots, melting ladles, mooring buoys for model yachts, etc., but the locomotive was the first toy, made wholly from tin cans, that I had produced, and this suggested other toys. The steam roller was next made. I found that the cans lend themselves very easily to the making of toys, so much of the work being already done. The materials used to make these toys are plentiful and inexpensive-cans are everywhere. The tools needed are few and easy to use, and I found that so many different and amusing durable toys could be made from used tin cans, and also that everyone seemed to have such fun making the toys that I decided to use them for teaching purposes. Tin can toy making has been thoroughly tried out in a grade school under a very able teacher, who understands making them. Pupils of ten, eleven and twelve years of age have proved that these toys are easy to make, and many schools now have the work well established.