British Toy Making Timeline

The British Toy Making timeline is a resource to help map the history of four major toy making companies of the twentieth century, held in the museum’s archive. It provides a visual history that shows how these significant British companies grew over time, and tells the stories of how some of the iconic toys of the twentieth century were developed.

Palitoy

Founded in Leicester in 1919 by Alfred Pallet, the Cascelloid Company began selling fancy goods including toys made from celluloid, an early plastic. The use of new plastics ensured the company’s rapid growth, becoming Palitoy in 1935. It went on to make some of the best known toys of the twentieth century, including Action Man, Tiny Tears and Star Wars. After several mergers and takeovers, Palitoy ceased trading in 1986, with its factory, moulds and copyrights all bought by Hasbro.

  • 1919-1930

    Cascelloid Limited, which was later to become Palitoy, was founded by Alfred Pallet who, in 1919 at the age of 18, decided to set up a company to manufacture celluloid and plastic fancy goods, including a small number of toys. Pallett had started to train as an accountant, but left when he failed his exams. He then sold typewriters for the Leicester-based company Branson's, before setting out on his own. The first Cascelloid factory was in a former lodging house in Britannia Street, Leicester.

    More about 1919-1930
    Cascelloid Windmill advert, Games and Toys, June 1927
    Advertisement of celluloid toys, Cascelloid Ltd, Games & Toys, 1927
    Initially, the company’s sales were slow, amounting to only £90 in the first year, and on occasion Pallet had to pawn his own possessions to pay the factory bills.

     

  • 1930s

    In 1931, Cascelloid Ltd. became a subsidiary of the British Xylonite Company Ltd and a year later it moved to Abbey Lane, Leicester, although retaining the Britannia Works name. After further expansion, in 1937 it acquired a further site in Coalville on the site of a billiard/dance hall. The ‘Palitoy Playthings’ trademark began to be used in 1937, initially associated with the Company’s new ranges of soft-bodied dolls being produced at this new factory.

    More about 1930s
    Palitoy advertisement, Games and Toys, February 1937
    New Palitoy dolls advertisement, Games and Toys, September 1939
    In the late 1930s the trade press were dubbing Cascelloid ‘The House of Constant Progress’. This was reflected not only in the variety of ranges they were manufacturing, but also in their development of new materials and manufacturing techniques.

     

  • 1940s

    From 1940 to 1946, the Coalville factory was requisitioned to aid in Britain’s war effort, producing a wide range of equipment and parts such as anti-gas eye shields, and bomb noses and tails made from laminated paper. When the factory was given back to Cascelloid in 1946 the development of manufacturing techniques continued, including the use of injection-moulding, a technique pioneered and developed by Cascelloid’s parent company British Xylonite.

    More about 1940s
    Electric Train Set, Palitoy, UK, 1949
    Palitoy advertisement, Games and Toys, December 1946
    Coalville was a coal mining town so a good percentage of men would be working down the coal mines…and a good percentage of their wives would be working in the Palitoy factory" - Bob Brechin, chief toy designer

     

  • 1950s

    During the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s Cascelloid produced a wide range of products including rattles, push- and pull-along toys, squeeze-squeak toys, model cars and trucks and beach and swimming toys. Role playing and dressing-up equipment was also introduced based on the themes of cowboys, bus conductors, railway guards and nurses. Table tennis and draughts were two of the company’s most popular games.

    Palitoy
    Palitoy advertisement, Games and Toys, November 1949
    Palitoy advertisement, Games and Toys, August 1949
    With the introduction of vinyl, Cascelloid produced a more varied range of dolls including ‘Patsy’, first manufactured in 1952, which went on to become a long-standing favourite.

     

  • 1960s

    The 1960s were a boom period for Cascelloid with the launch of some of the best known and loved toys of the decade. ‘Tressy’, first produced in 1964, represented Cascelloid’s bid for the ‘teenage doll’ market. A year later in 1965 ‘Tiny Tears’ was launched into the UK market, although it had been produced in the United States since the 1950s. The following year, in 1966, it won the National Association of Toy Retailers’ Girls Toy of the Year Award.

    More about 1960s
    GI Joe figures, Hasbro, Hong Kong, 1965-1966
    Action Man Toy of the Year photograph, 1966
    …from the introduction of Action Man, the company grew rapidly... The turnover was tremendous and Action Man was probably about two thirds of the turnover." - Bob Brechin, chief toy designer

     

  • 1968-1979

    In 1965 the toy division at Coalville was separated from the rest of Cascelloid and renamed the Palitoy Division. Three years later, in 1968, British Xylonite Ltd sold the Division to General Mills Incorporated, where it was renamed Palitoy Incorporated. A North American giant in food products, General Mills had diversified into other consumer products and had recently acquired a number of other toy manufacturers, including Parker Bros and Kenner.

    More about 1968-1979
    Star Wars catalogue, Palitoy, 1979
    Action Man prototypes, Palitoy, 1966
    We designed a completely new figure [Action Man] just for the British market and we called it ‘dynamic physique’, which was all plastic, no metal rivets, no elastic bands…it didn’t need much to put it together… just clicking components together.

     

  • 1980s

    From 1 January 1980, the three manufacturers (Palitoy, Denys Fisher and Chad Valley) stopped trading under the umbrella of the General Mills UK Toy Group and became the Palitoy Company (although still owned by GM). Late in the following year, it was joined by Airfix, which had been bought by General Mills, with the design team moving to Coalville whilst the plastic kit production was sent to Palitoy factories in France.

    More about 1980s
    Action Man Space Ranger and Space Speeder, Palitoy, 1980
    Action Force Battle Tank and Steeler, Palitoy, 1982
    In 1984, Palitoy’s design and development departments were shut down by General Mills, when they decided to abandon all European product development.

     

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