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Louis Marx & Company

As is common in the stories of many successful entrepreneurs, Louis Marx & Company began with a firing. Louis Marx worked at Ferdinand J. Strass Company after graduating high school. The Strass Company was a mechanical toy manufacturer that produced toys for Abraham & Strauss Department Stores. They were a pioneer in the tin toy industry. After rising to the position of manager, Louis Marx was fired because of disputes over production.

After serving in the U.S. Army during World War I, Marx decided to venture out on his own. In 1919, Louis and his brother David established Louis Marx & Company in New York City. They started with nothing but Louis' design talent and energy coupled with David's operational expertise. The company was not originally set up to be a toy manufacturer, but a middle man between the toy manufacturer and the retail stores. What would today be called a distributor. They soon began to start manufacturing their own toys and lived by two rules that would govern the company and contribute to their success, "Give the customer more toy for less money" and "Quality is not negotiable." The company soon earned the reputation of quality toys at low prices, and the Marx brand became noted for its value.

Marx bought his old employer, The Strass Company, in 1922 when Strass fell on hard times. This purchase gave Louis Marx & Company patents and dies to some famous Strass toys, Zippo the Climbing Monkey and the Alabama Minstrel Singer. In 1928, the company produced the first Yo-Yo and signed a deal with Sears Roebuck & Co. to carry it.

Despite the Great Depression, the 1930s was a time of rapid growth for Louis Marx & Company. Marx built three new plants in Erie, Pennsylvania, Girard, Pennsylvania, and Glendale, West Virginia. This growth continued until World War II, when the factories were recruited to the war effort and became a supplier for the U.S. Military. After the war, Louis Marx & Company returned to toy manufacturing and quickly became the world's largest toy manufacturer.

The company grew by leaps and bounds during the "Golden Era" of the 1950s. By 1955 Louis Marx & Company was producing 20% of all the toys sold in the U.S. and had factories in ten countries. They produced over 5000 different products including many tinplate toys that had made them famous in the beginning.

During the 1960s the Japanese were flooding the market with mass produced, cheap tin toys. In the 1970s tin started to be replaced with plastic and newer metal alloys. Marx's first plastic toys were disappointing because they lacked durability and they soon switched to polyethylene. In 1972 Louis Marx, now 76, knew it was time to get out and sold the company to Quaker Oats. Under Quaker's corporate culture the company suffered and 3 years later was sold to Dunbee-Combex of England. By 1980 the company filed for bankruptcy and operations were shut down. American Plastic Equipment of Florida acquired the company assets in 1982 and resurrected the Marx name. By 1988, old Marx toys commanded high prices from collectors and demand was triggered to reissue the toys. In 1995 a separate toy company was formed, Marx Toy Corporation, and the tradition of quality toys at a value price was reborn.

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