BY RANDY PRASSE
“STRUCTO TOYS MAKES MEN OF BOYS!” proclaimed the 1916 Popular Mechanics advertisement. Now, 95 years later, those same Structo Toys have the reverse-effect: making boys of men! Structo Manufacturing was founded in Freeport, Illinois in 1908, originally as the “Thompson Manufacturing Company” — and later changed to “Structo Manufacturing” in 1911 — a play on the “inde-structo-ble quality of their steel building sets. The steel building sets were the American equivalent of the more widely known Meccano Construction Sets (Great Britain) and forerunner of A.C. Gilbert’s “Erector Sets”. Toy “builder kits” featuring roadsters, tractors and dump trucks, introduced by Structo in 1917, launching 55 years of toy vehicle production for Structo—eventually selling out to Ertl in Dyersville, Iowa in 1973.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1911 name change to Structo Manufacturing in Freeport, Illinois, the Stephenson County Museum debuted the “largest display of Structo Toys ever under one roof” on September 3, 2011.
Even the steady downpour of rain and sporadic thunderstorms throughout the opening day of this special exhibit could not dampen the spirits of Structo enthusiasts. Hundreds of former Structo employees, toy collectors and curious area residents braved the weather to tour the exhibit and exchange stories and discuss the toys with others in attendance.