Construction toy with packaging, 'Clinker Toy' No.1, wood, made by George T Irving, Caulfield South, Victoria, Australia, 1950s
This Australian-made timber construction toy of the 1950s called 'Clinker Toy' was made by George T. Irving of Victoria, in the 1950s. The toy is virtually identical to, and its name even sounds like, a famous American toy called 'Tinkertoy' developed in Evanston, Illinois, in 1914 by Charles H. Pajeau, a stonemason, and his business partner, Robert Pettit. Pajeau was apparently inspired to design this toy after seeing his children build structures by poking pencils into empty cotton spools. He modified the design by making a shorter, wheel-like timber spool with a series of holes drilled every 45 degrees around the perimeter and a central hole. Different lengths of timber dowel or sticks were placed in the holes to make a large range of fanciful structures, bizarre vehicles and amazing animals. The original Tinkertoy sets were said to have been based on the Pythagorean progressive right angled triangle.
Pajeau first displayed his toy at the New York City Toy Fair in 1914, but he had little success until he set up an elaborate display in the pharmacy at Grand Central Station. It was a hit within days and subsequently sold around the world with endorsement from parents, educators, architects and museums as it encourages creativity in children. Tinkertoy was enormously popular throughout the 20th century and is still made today by the American firm of Hasbro.
The Irving firm, which made timber toys, is typical of the large number of toy manufacturing companies which developed and flourished in Australia after the Second World War due to the unavailability of overseas-manufactured toys. This dearth of toys was caused by lack of transport and many factories having been converted to war production. By the 1960s many of these Australian toy firms had closed or diversified into making other products as they could not compete with the overseas-made toys when importation resumed.
The Clinker Toy construction set is part of a small collection of toys used by members of the Wyatt family in Hobart, Tasmania, and Roseville, NSW, from 1935 until 1965. The toys were made in Britain, Germany and Australia, and are representative of the types available to Australian children at the time. They are significant in that they remained in the one family and were extremely well looked after, many still being in their original boxes with the instruction leaflets and information.
Curator, Science & Industry
The Clinker Toy construction set was made by the Victorian firm of George T. Irving, of Caulfield South, a Melbourne suburb. According to the paper instruction leaflet the Clinker Toy was 'The Amazing Builder- Educational Constructional Creative'. It continues 'this toy is designed to develop the minds of Boys and Girls - it structural capacity is unlimited and is attractive to children of all ages. The Kiddies need very little encouragement to building models other than those shown below'. The leaflet has black and white images of the models which could be made: windmill, garage, clock, chair, bridge, doll, wheelbarrow, see-saw, aeroplane, motor truck, dog, swing and crane. Other products manufactured by George T. Irving included hammer pegs sets, varnished hookey boards, black and white hookey boards, bob sets, 3-piece wooden trains, black boards and counting frames.
When the donor was choosing a gift for her daughter in Hobart, Tasmania, in the late 1950s, she chose this Clinker Toy as it reminded her of a toy she enjoyed playing with from her childhood in the late 1930s. The toy was most probably a Tinkertoy construction set, designed and made in America. The eldest Wyatt daughter had this construction set while her younger sister had Brick City, another Australian-made toy similar to Lego. When the Wyatt family moved to Sydney in 1965 all their toys were brought too. The Clinker Toy construction set is part of a toy collection owned by the Wyatt family and presented to the Museum in 2008.