Toy battleship, 'Orobr' floor toy, clockwork operated, metal, made by Oro Works of Reil, Blechschmidt & Müller, Brandenburg, Germany, c. 1910
This toy battleship was made in Brandenburg, Germany, in about 1910 at the Oro Works. The significance of this toy battleship lies in the fact that it closely relates to the technological and historical details of full-size battleships constructed at the time.
A full size battleship is a large, heavily-armored warship with a main battery consisting of the largest caliber of guns. In 1906, the British-built HMS Dreadnought heralded a revolution in battleship design, and for many years modern battleships were referred to as dreadnoughts. This new class of ship which was fast, and had all their main guns the same size, prompted an arms race. This was principally between Germany and Britain and had major strategic consequences. Possession of modern battleships was not only vital to naval power, but as with nuclear weapons today, represented a nation's standing in the world. This toy battleship features all the impressive gun armaments of the full-size dreadnoughts though still retains its naïve proportions which appeal so much to children.
The battleship is part of a large collection of toys purchased in 1985 from the remarkable tin toy collector Ken Finlayson. Finlayson developed his collection through auctions, swap meets and market stalls, and his connections with toy dealers and other serious collectors. Some toys were simply found overlooked sitting on the shelves of remote country newsagencies, brand new and never opened.
Finlayson's knowledge and love of toys saw him amass 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 almost every type of transport toy including 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 throughout most of the twentieth century, including ones made in this country by Boomaroo, Wyn-toy, and Cyclops.
Margaret Simpson, 25 September 2007
The Oro Works (Orowerke) of Brandenberg, Germany, made inexpensive tin toys before the First World War and again until 1922. Partners in the firm included Reil, Blechschmidt and Müller. Production included transport toys such as Rolls Royce cars, limousine, trams, battleships and fire engines. Despite being inexpensive, their fire engines were particularly complex comprising 42 different pieces of pressed tin plate, each with several metal tabs. These had to be painstakingly assembled by hand. Wages were low in Germany for toy assembly workers and these toys could still be marketed and sold overseas at a cheap price. The Oro firm also made a six-room lithographed tin plate dolls houses complete with metal furniture.
The trademarks were 'Orowerke' (Oro Works) and 'Orobr'.
Pressland, David, "The Art of the Tin Toy", New Cavendish Books, London, 1976.