Barclay Manufacturing Company, founded in 1924 in West Hoboken, New Jersey, became the largest manufacturer of toy soldiers in the United States in the late 1930s through early 1940s. Many of the figures, made from antimonial lead, were originally sold for a nickel apiece prior to World War II. Barclay experienced a tremendous distribution chain through their close business relationship with Woolworth’s.

The “dimestore-size” figures featured in Deke’s Collection are some of the most collected pieces produced by Barclay. Pre-war production involved hand-casting of the figures. Production began in 1935 and was ended on April 1, 1942, due to World War II as the company became involved in defense work.

Important differences exist within the Barclay toy soldier line. Earlier figures feature a “short stride,” which caused them to look stiff and unrealistic. In 1936, longer stride figures were produced. Sculpts produced by Frank Krupp featured separate tin helmets, which were initially glued and later pinned to the soldiers. However, due to the expenses involved with this, later figures featured an integrated helmet. These are known as “cast helmet” soldiers to collectors.

Barclay numbered their soldiers and issued catalogs. The Italian and Ethiopian figures were produced in 1935 and 1936; figures 728-741 were produced in 1936, followed by figures 743-746 by early 1937. Figures 747-761 followed later that year. The Asian soldiers also seem to have been produced in 1937. Figures 762-773, as well as the four Boy Scouts, were produced in 1938; the remaining civilian figures (610-626) seem to have been introduced in 1939. In addition, the taller soldiers (B10, B20, B76, 774, 775, 776, & 777) are likely to have been introduced with the civilians. “Cast helmet” soldiers began production in 1940; the last pre-War figure was likely B142, “Soldiers in Boat.”

In this collection, any “Bxxx” classification is O’Brien’s. The original Barclay catalog number and description is provided where possible.

Source: O’Brien, R. (1997). Collecting American-made toy soldiers: Identification and Value Guide. Florence, AL: Books Americana.

Barclay ceased trading in 1971 due to an inability to compete with plastics and the rapidly changing market (e.g. Mattel Hot Wheels), not because of lead issues, which has been a popular misconception (Fendelman and Rosson 2009). The old firm's trademark rights were acquired in the 1990s, and now The Barclay Company once again manufactures solid metal reproductions of Barclay and Manoil Manufacturing Co. figures.

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