1914/1915 WW1 Gendron Coaster Wagons: ‘Armoured Car’ & ‘Army Service Car’

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Gamages Great Christmas Fair & War Tableaux, 1914. Bring the children to see the Great Miniature Battle in our large toy hall: English and Allies versus the German Army. The most realistic thing in Toy Warfare the world has ever seen. Field guns and howitzers fired by real gunpowder, trenches, barbed wire all complete.

– Gamages advertisement, December, 1914

The first ‘armed car’ was the F.R Simms Motor Scout, a quadricycle powered by a De Dion Bouton engine and introduced in 1898 (above). Simms’ 1902 version, the ‘Motor War Car’ is the first vehicle considered an ‘armoured car’ (below).

I bought these two delightful – and extremely rare – wagons from a Canadian museum, which described their age as ‘1898-1915’. Their wheels are equal size and though the floors are wooden, the bodies are metal. Gendron was already a leading supplier of coaster wagons (as well as bicycles and riding toys). Canada was involved in the War at its outset in 1914. Though I’ve not yet found a catalogue illustrating the ‘Armoured Car’ or ‘Army Service Car’ shown here, in my opinion they were built in Canada during the first few years of World War 1.

1914/1915 WW1 Gendron Coaster Wagons (Made in Canada)

Metal bodies, with wooden floors

ARMOURED CAR

11″ Metal Wheels

BODY DIMENSIONS –

LENGTH: 31″

WIDTH: 16.5″

HEIGHT: 5″

OVERALL DIMENSIONS –

LENGTH: 37″

WIDTH: 19″

HEIGHT: 16″

Handle Length: 33″

ARMY SERVICE CAR

9″ Metal Wheels

BODY DIMENSIONS –

LENGTH: 24″

WIDTH: 12.5″

HEIGHT: 4″

OVERALL DIMENSIONS –

LENGTH: 29″

WIDTH: 15″

HEIGHT: 14″

Handle Length: 26″

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WAR TOYS

The advent of mass-production boosted the popularity of children’s toys in the early 20th century. Germany dominated the toy industry, but World War 1 halted their exports. The toy industry in Britain, France and America quickly stepped in to produce their own war toys, it becoming a matter of national pride to help children identify with each country’s war effort. Toy soldiers were the leading product, followed by battleships, airplanes, cannons, other military equipment, board games and books. In 1914 and 1915, their consumption reached heights never previously seen. Department stores set up large toy battle scene window displays, altered daily to reflect the ongoing fighting. By the end of 1916 demand declined, however, due both to the shortage of metal and public disenchantment with the war.

Riding toys were not represented during World War 1 – these Gendron coaster wagons are the only surviving examples I’ve found – but the American toy industry was more prepared in World War 2, and a number of companies provided pedal cars with a military theme (below).

UNDERNEATH THE GENDRONS

 

 

 

 

 

GENDRON HISTORY

Extracts from the (recommended) book ‘Gendron 1872-1927: Pedal Cars, Bicycles & Victorian Carriages’ by Frederic W Strobel II