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Originally known as the Mound Metalcraft Co., Tonka Trucks began production in Mound, Minnesota making sturdy pressed-steel trucks just after WWII. Mound Metalcraft purchased a building and several dies from the Streater Co., a company that patented several toys but never put them into production. With the dies from Streater’s toy-making venture, Mount Metalcraft Co. was prepared to enter the toy manufacturing business.
Though formed in 1946 by Lynn Baker, Alvin Tesch, and Avery Crounse, in November 1955, the company changed and incorporated their name to Tonka Toys. The word tonka is derived from the Dakota Sioux word for “tanka” meaning great or big.
Tonka saw a huge expansion in 1947 and 1948 with the popularity of their toy steam shovel and crane with clam bucket. This toy catapulted the company to the forefront of the pressed-steel toy industry. By 1955, the company had introduced dump trucks, wreckers, semi trucks, and box vans.
Tonka’s pre-1955 box vans are sought by collectors today due to their private and commercial advertising labels. Several of these rare-labeled trucks have values in the thousands of dollars today
Tonka’s initial toys were not their own invention. They bought the original patents of dies and toys left behind by The Streater Co. after taking over their building
The steam shovel and crane with clam bucket were not Tonka inventions, but part of the patent models they purchased. Tonka later reinvented the two toys