M2003.61.1.15 | Toy soldier
About 1908, 20th century
5.7 x 2.2 cm
Gift of Dr. Desmond Morton
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Toy (148) , Toy soldier (28)
This figure representing a soldier from the Royal Marines was made in the factories of Britain Limited, in London. In 1893, the founder of the company, William Britain, developed a technique for manufacturing hollow cast toy soldiers, that is, relief moulded toys. Usually made from a mixture of lead and antimony ("a brittle silvery-white metallic element used especially in alloys"), toy soldiers had up until then been cast in full rounds (solid cast) or cast in semi-rounds (two halves separately poured and glued together). Because these new toys were hollow inside, they conserved metal and were less expensive and lighter than their predecessors.
The Britain toy company became one of the world's foremost makers of toy soldiers, exporting them all over the world. It manufactured toy soldiers from 1893 to 1917, when the factory was converted to war production. After World War One, the company returned to making toy soldiers while also diversifying its production, notably, by adding pastoral (farming) figures to its list.