Toy car, 'Tut-Tut', metal, clockwork-operated, made by E.P. Lehmann, Brandenburg, Germany, 1910-1920
The 'Tut Tut' tin toy car made in about 1910 is probably the most well known toy made by E.P. Lehmann founded in 1881 in Brandenburg, near Berlin, Germany. Of all the European toys produced from the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, those made by Lehmann are the easiest to recognise. They are brightly coloured, and have an amusing and clever action to create dancing, climbing, walking, crawling and rolling, usually powered by a wind-up fly-wheel drive. This gave them engaging and amusing appeal which in this case sees Tut Tut's driver blow a horn as he drives along.
Lehmann built up one of the most important and prolific toy-making companies in the world with toys aimed at a mass market. Prices were kept low by the use of a newly-developed thin and cheap type of tin plate. While the First World War resulted in a decline in the German monopoly of wind-up toys, Lehmann was one company which survived. By the 1920s Lehmann employed over 800 staff and produced over 100 different toy designs. These were marketed around the world in boxes with instructions in both German and English. A variety of Lehmann toys made their way to Australia in the early decades of the twentieth century. Tut Tut was available in Sydney and was advertised in the 1911 edition of a catalogue produced by the Sydney department store, Anthony Hordern & Sons.
Curator, Toys in the Attic exhibition
This toy car was made by the German toy-making firm of E.P. Lehmann in about 1910. Ernst Paul Lehmann became a partner in firm of G.L. Eichner & Sons in 1881 making tin cans for aniline dyes. When Eichner died three years later, Lehmann changed the name of the business and continued alone specialising in clockwork tin plate toys. Lehmann's factory was located in the small town of Brandenburg, on the River Havel, near Berlin, some distance away from Nuremburg, then a world centre of toy making.
The firm became a notable toy exporter with some 85% of their toys being sold overseas via a network of sales representatives independent of wholesalers. Their colourful designs were often humorous and produced to appeal to both boys and girls. They featured inventive mechanisms, witty names and sometimes a bizarre sense of humour with some toy figures alluding to current affairs of the day. Animals such as zebras, ostriches and roosters were represented in the unusual position of hauling carts driven by clowns, comic figures and even rabbits. Some of the early designs like, the walking dog, the crawling beetle, Tom the climbing monkey and the 'Balky Mule' became classics and remained popular for many years.
As well as animals and figures, various transport subjects including aircraft, airships or zeppelins, buses, vans, motorcycles and cars were all produced mirroring the technological development and styles of the time. When full-size automobiles appeared on the streets, Lehmann, who it is claimed to have disliked this modern invention, introduced a toy vehicle as early as 1897. Although appearing to be inspired by a comic strip character, it is said that the toy 'Tut Tut' car was driven by a figure said to be a caricature of a well-fed, self-aggrandizing capitalist! The driver may have been represented in this way partly because of Lehmann's dislike for the automobile. The driver's action may also be interpreted as being a warning to other road users, such as the slower horse-drawn vehicles and pedestrians, to move out of his way. Tut Tut was patented in 1910.
Many of Lehmann's toy cars featured unusual and memorable names which spanned both language and cultures barriers. As well as 'Tut Tut' there was 'Uha', 'Aha', 'Lolo', and 'Oho'. All were said to have been derived from ritual greetings and toasts made at a humorous club of which Lehmann was a member.
Lehmann's early tin toys had their colourful finishes lithographed onto the tin plate before being made up with tab and slot construction. Later toys were spray painted and then fired at 120 degrees to give them a smooth enamel finish. Lehmann's trademark was an embossed 'e' surrounded by a bell or his initials 'EPL'.
Over 100 different models were produced by Lehmann until about 1920. In the early 1920s, Lehmann's cousin, Johannes Richter, a merchant and inventor, joined the firm. Richter encouraged the addition of toys of a technological nature. After Lehmann's death in 1934 the business was run solely by Richter.
During the Second World War the firm suffered from lack of materials and export restrictions but they did continue to operate although production decreased considerably. Nevertheless, Lehmann's did not have to go over to producing military goods as most other firms did and even managed to resist the request to produce politically-approved toys of a military nature.
The Lehmann factory buildings escaped war damage and only months after the end of the war were able to resume production at a modest level. Germany was subsequently split into the German Democratic Republic in the east, and the Federal Republic of Germany in the west. Brandenburg was located in East Germany and in 1948 Richter was accused of being a war criminal and profiteer and was removed from the company by the then Soviet occupation forces with no compensation. At this time the company employed 800 workers and was at its peak. Lehamnn's was nationalised and made into a 'peoples own company' under the name VEB Mechanischne Spielwaren and is said to have become the German Democratic Republics' leading tin toy manufacturer.
Meanwhile, Johannes Richter left Brandenburg and fled to West Germany. In 1950 he and with his family built up a new toy firm in a small Nuremberg backyard workshop. Richter died in 1956 and his sons, Eberhard and Wolfgang, continued to develop the company and expanded it. A new factory was built on the outskirts of Nuremberg in 1959. With the demise of the tin toy industry, the reformed Lehmann toy company began making plastic toys although they did continue to produce some of the old favourite Lehmann tin toy lines until the 1970s.
Today the Lehmann firm continues, having changed direction during the 1960s when they developed a new large scale model railway. Called, the LGB or The Big Train (Lehmann Grobahn), it was launched in 1968. Despite the trend in model railways towards more miniaturisation, the 45mm G-gauge has been a great success for the company around the world.
Richardson, Mike and Sue, "wheels:Christie's Presents the Magical World of Automotive Toys", Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1999.
"History of the E.P. Lehmann Patentwerk Company", Nuremberg Toy Museum, n.d.
This toy car is part of a large collection of toys purchased in 1985 from the remarkable tin toy collector Ken Finlayson. As a boy Finlayson admired steam trains but never owned a model train. As an adult he began collecting Hornby model trains, and his interest spread to other model trains and tin toys. He developed his collection at auctions, swap meets and market stalls, and through his connections with toy dealers and other serious collectors. Some toys were simply found sitting on the neglected shelves of remote country newsagencies, brand new and never opened.
Finlayson's knowledge and love of toys brought him a collection of nearly 2000 items, including highly collectable tinplate toys manufactured by respected names such as Carette, Bing, Marklin and Lehmann, as well as a variety of other German, English and Japanese makers. The Finlayson collection contains every type of transport toy - cars, trucks, tractors, fire engines, buses, motorcycles, aeroplanes, ships and trains,- as well as novelty toys, robots, kitchen toys and Meccano sets. It represents the type of toys that were available in Australia in the twentieth century, including ones made in this country by Boomaroo, Wyn-toy, Cyclops, Ferris and Robilt. These Australian toys were usually built from heavy gauge pressed steel rather than thin tinplate, making them sturdy enough for rough treatment in Australian backyards and sandpits.