An Antique Classic: The Friction Toy

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The airplane found its wings in Dayton, Ohio. The modern cash register as well as the automobile ignition system were famously created in Dayton. Perhaps lesser known is the invention of a toy that would, for two decades, cause the toy industry to look at Dayton as the toy capital of the United States: Boyer’s friction toy.

Israel and Edith Boyer received their patent for the friction toy in 1898. Making use of a flywheel that helps to power wheels, a friction toy is placed on the ground and pulled backward, then let loose so that the toy can propel forward. While this might seem a mere novelty today, more than 100 years ago it was revolutionary.

David P. Clark, a Dayton businessman, saw the potential in the new toy and quickly formed D.P. Clark & Co. with the Boyers. They marketed the toys as “hill climbers”, wanting to ensure child and parent alike knew this toy was special, capable of moving on its own, tackling inclines and even obstructions. Their earliest toys included a train and a horse. Business was such a success that others copied the idea, making small alterations to avoid patent infringements. Today you’d be hard pressed to find a toy shop without some form of a friction toy for sale.

“A toy that is destined to gladded the hearts of more than a million children was invented and is being manufactured by the thousands right here in Dayton.”
-Dayton Daily Journal; December 7, 1898

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