Meccano® in the United States
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My Questions


Many sites have a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) area. If I get questions, and some are frequent, I will add such a page to this site. Here, though, I have a number of my questions.

When, exactly, was the US Meccano Company purchased by A. C. Gilbert (owner of Erector)?

A. C. Gilbert bought the US Meccano Company in 1928 or 1929. Do you have any documentation on the date? One theory is that Joshua Lionel Cowan (of Lionel Trains) needed cash to purchase the Ives Company, and sold the Meccano Company to obtain the cash. Cowan was reputedly the owner of the US Meccano Company. The Ives Corporation was sold on July 31, 1928. Was the sale actually connected as described?

Some of the evidence: the pictures of the US Meccano factory in Elizabeth disappeared from the back covers of Meccano instructions by March of 1930, although it was shown on January editions (MUCH thanks to Jaques Pitrat for researching this angle, and credit also to Clive Weston for his help!). The US Meccano Company started making 0 gauge clockwork trains in 1927, and continued in 1928. The line was dropped in 1929 - perhaps when Gilbert bought the company? Lew Schneider has provided information on these trains - see also his article in Classic Toy Trains for May of 2000.

There is an ad in Playthings, a trade magazine, from January of 1929 implying significant changes in Meccano marketing, perhaps suggesting a new owner.

The outfit numbers in 1928 still followed the traditional 0, 1, 2, 3, etc. sequence, although an 'x' was appended to all outfits with electric motors, including 4x, 5x, and 6x. These larger outfits had had electric motors for some time, but in 1928, the 'x' was added, presumably so all motorized outfits had the 'x'. In 1929, however, outfit numbers were changed drastically, to 5, 10, 20, 30, etc. The first manuals for 1929 had a sticker pasted over the old "0 to 3x" with the new numbers "0 through 40".

I have begun to believe that the sale took place late in 1928, but I do not have much to justify this belief. Others are convinced that the sale was in 1929.


What Meccano Magazines were published in the United States?

See the US Magazines page for my guesses. If you have any US Meccano Magazines (or Meccano Engineer), I would like to know about them. Photocopies (or scans) of magazines missing from my collection would be greatly appreciated, if you do not want to part with your originals.


Supplementary Manual Covers Mystery Manual - Solved!

Supplementary Manual CoverA partial manual has surfaced. I have pages 3 through 38, and Clive Weston has a smaller section. There were both obtained in the US. The strange feature is that the models do not have numbers. The Number 14S Supplementary Manual (actually copyright 1916) also has no model numbers, BUT it is smaller (only 32 pages, including covers). Based on the portion in my collection, I would expect this "Mystery Manual" to have 40 pages. If there was a cover, it is missing from my copy, so there is no way to tell if the covers had page numbers (like the 14S Supplementary Manual), or if there was a cover over the 40 pages (like the typical Meccano manual). Several of the pages in the "Mystery Manual" have the same layout as the 1916 manual. The models shown in the "Mystery Manual" are not in the 1914 manual, but all (at least all that are in the portion in my collection) are in the 1916 manual.

The solution:
Clive Weston has found (in England!) a complete copy of this manual. The cover (not numbered, but it is page 1) has "No. 14 S / American Edition" on it, and it is titled "Supplementary Manual of Instructions."

Click on the image to see the 14S Supplementary Manual Covers


An Unusual Box

This wonderful picture shows a proud young boy with his No. 2 Meccano set and a model he presumably built. The model is a small version of a Telpher Span, as shown in the 1916 manual as model no. 23. Later manuals (for example, 1923) show a slightly different version The box lid has a design which seems to have been used from 1919 through about 1926, at least in the US. HOWEVER, it has a picture of a model called a "Helter Skelter" on the box lid. All of the boxes I have seen have an Eiffel Tower on the box lid. I have an example of this box, courtesy Albert Sendros from Spain. The writing is in English, but there is no US address along the bottom edge as on other US box lids. I therefore suspect that this box was probably not used in the US - subject to change, of course!! The question:
Where was this box used?

I have the following information from Tim Gant: "Re the Helter Skelter box, Jeff Jones has examples from 1916-1918 and confirms they are UK and one of the rarer box labels. Jeff also reminded me it is Charlie Chaplin, going down the Helter Skelter."

Click here for an enlarged view of the Helter Skelter box lid.


Box Embossing

scan of UK box markingsHere is a scan of a portion of a British (I think) Meccano box. I have three non-US boxes, all from Canada, apparently. They have the word "Meccano" embossed in a curved pattern in the black paper covering the box. The repeat is 7/8 inch in both directions. None of the US boxes in my collection have this marking. The examples from Canada, from which this scan was taken, are from around 1923 through 1926. In case you have difficulty seeing it, the word MECCANO is curved upward at the ends, and appears both right side up and upside down.

The Questions:
Was this treatment used on British boxes only? During what time period?


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