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Louis Marx & Co. was founded in 1919 by Louis and David Marx in Erie, Pennsylvania. Louis Marx was born in 1896 to Jacob and Clara Lou Marx in Brooklyn, NY, and after graduating from high school he worked at Ferdinand Strauss, a manufacturer of early mechanical toys. Marx specialized in and became the dominant American manufacturer of tin toys that reflected the quality and design inspiration of their European counterparts. Tin plate toys were originally introduced in Germany around 1874, using tin plate mostly used in the manufacture of oil cans. In the years following World War I, Germany lost its position as the leading producer of tin toys for children, and they were overtaken by the Japanese who produced tin toys for a global export market. With the founding of Louis Marx & Company in 1919 to produce tin plate wind up toys, an American company also sought to take advantage of this fundamental change in the global marketplace. At first, Marx mostly marketed toys from other factories overseas but they gradually built up U. S. production capacity by renting factory space from Carter Toys in Erie. Marx had the opportunity in 1922 to buy his old employer Strauss, and along with the purchase Marx gained dies to some famous Strauss toys such as the Zippo climbing monkey and the Alabama minstrel dancer. In 1928, Marx produced the first Yo-Yo and signed a distribution deal with Sears Roebuck & Co.

During the years of World War II the Marx factories were recruited into the war effort and became an important supplier to the U. S. Military. Following the end of the European conflict in 1945, Louis Marx was named an industrial adviser to Germany by General Dwight D. Eisenhower. After the war, Marx returned to toy manufacturing and achieved a dominant position in the U. S. market during the 1950s and 1960s. Friction-based trains, fire engines, and cars were introduced in 1948, and the Marx plant in Girard, PA first produced the famous Marx trains while automobiles and other vehicles were first produced at a new factory in Glendale, West Virginia. In 1955, electric trains and automobiles were introduced, and later that year Louis Marx appeared on the December, 1955 cover of Time Magazine with the moniker "The Toy King!" As an early adopter of overseas manufacturing, Marx had established factories in 10 countries by 1964 and licensed others for export. Nevertheless, the Japanese were flooding the market with low cost, mass produced tin toys, and by the 1970s tin was being replaced by plastic and newer metal alloys. Marx' first plastic toys were very disappointing for their lack of durability, and they soon switched to a stronger variation polyethylene.

Quaker Oats bought the company in 1972 upon Louis Marx' retirement, and under corporate ownership the culture of the company suffered and the new product introductions began to fail after a near perfect string of successes. In 1978, the original Louis Marx & Co. ceased production. The box can make it easy to date Marx toys; for example, 5 digit zip codes and 2 digit state abbreviations were first used in 1963, zip + 4 in 1983, and bar codes were introduced in 1975 and did not become prevalent until 5 years after that. Prior to 1963, Marx toys either had postal zone numbers if produced within the U.S. and Japanese production was marked "Made in Nippon" from 1921 and earlier, "Made in Japan" from 1922 until WWII, and "Made in Occupied Japan" from 1945 - 1952.

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Buy period Marx, Lionel, Matchbox, Hot Wheels, and other finer tin and diecast toys on the Collectics Toys & Games pages, or search the entire site for great antiques, collectibles, and crafts for every collector!

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