Before the Apollo moon missions, and even before Sputnik...there was the Garton Space Cruiser. A sleek vision in white with red and yellow accents, the Space Cruiser was like no other three-wheeled, pedal-powered vehicle on the sidewalk. It even boasted a "flying saucer gun that really shoots." Naturally, only the coolest children in the atomic age could drive them.
As a new product line in 1953, the Space Cruiser (image left) was the flagship vehicle of the Garton fleet. It created an "unprecedented demand" that outstripped production at the Garton factory in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. But there were plenty of other vehicles available for sale, as highlighted in the 1953 Garton Toy Company catalog. That year's model of the Kidillac, which sported a rear-view mirror, an aerial, and a removable spare wheel and tire, was offered in a "new, eye-appealing chartreuse" finish. Befitting its name, the Kidillac was the most expensive vehicle offered by Garton at $20.36. Police Chief and Fire Chief specialty versions of the Kidillac were also available.
The Garton Toy Company had already been in business for 74 years in 1953, creating a wide range of toys but specializing in wheeled-vehicles for children: sidewalk bikes, automobiles, velocipedes, pedal bikes, scooters, wagons, you name it. Four generations of the Garton family would ultimately own and operate the business that had been founded by Eusebius Bassingdale Garton in 1879. The family finally felt it had to sell the company in 1973, however. Since then, the main Garton toy factory in Sheboygan has traded hands several times. Gorman & Company, Inc., finally purchased the factory in 1999, renovating and converting the factory into the Garton Toy Factory Apartment Homes. So the factory namesake lives on at the apartments, and now the 1953 catalog lives on in our physical and digital collections here at Hagley for all to enjoy.
Resources: History of Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, Past and Present, Google Books.
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