Stanlo: Making the World, Piece by Piece

An early Stanlo set.

FOR THOSE WHO MAKE THE WORLD™

“[Those] who have been in the toy business for years report that it has been a long time since a new toy has been so firmly established throughout the country in one season as did this new toy, Stanlo.”

Hartford Courant, April 26, 19341

In the midst of the Great Depression, prospects for the town of New Britain, Connecticut, and its factory workers were grim. Nationwide, unemployment peaked at nearly 25 percent. After the stock market crash of 1929, building projects had ceased, as did the demand for construction materials and tools.2 To stay afloat, The Stanley Works was forced to reduce scheduling at its factories and make pay cuts.3 However, the company was concerned for the well-being of its employees and community. Its leaders looked for a way to keep its factory lines running—and its people working—despite the failing economy.

Then, an idea emerged, proposed by a French inventor.4 The Stanley Works adopted a new product line that could be manufactured on existing equipment, with a new audience that had previously been untapped: toys for children.5 The Stanlo manufacturing set was born.


Stanlo consisted of a set of metal plates of different shapes and sizes that could be assembled by pushing a steel rod through loops on the edges of each piece.

The new toy debuted at the American Toy Fair at the Stevens Hotel6 in Chicago on May 1, 19337 —two years before LEGO® released its first construction toy.8 Instantly captivating crowds,9, Stanlo consisted of a set of metal plates of different shapes and sizes that could be assembled by pushing a steel rod through loops on the edges of each piece.10 Stanlo sets initially cost $1 to $10.11 Each set came with a booklet filled with dozens of pictures of completed projects—trolley cars, bridges and ships. More importantly, the pieces could be assembled to create whatever the builder could dream.12

Following the American Toy Fair,13, orders began flowing in.14 By November, Stanley had produced over 3 million individual toy pieces, providing a living for members of more than 100 New Britain families.15


The Stanley Works adopted a new product line that could be manufactured on existing equipment, with a new audience that had previously been untapped: toys for children.

Despite initial success, the company was not satisfied with its initial product offering.16 Stanley enhanced the Stanlo sets throughout the 1930s, adding electric motors and lights to the more intricate sets.17 With these electrified sets, children could create fully lit buildings with working elevators18 and trucks with headlights.19 In 1934, Stanlo introduced a railroad set that allowed children to build functional train tracks, station houses, railroad gates and signal towers.20

Stanlo was a true intersection of innovation and corporate social responsibility. The Stanley Works was able to save the livelihoods of its factory workers while feeding the imaginations of the next generation of engineers and builders.

The world has changed significantly since the Depression, but Stanley Black & Decker’s values remain the same. In late 2017, the company announced the opening of new manufacturing facilities in South Carolina and Texas, creating nearly 1,000 new jobs.21 Amid economic challenges, the company continues to uphold its corporate social responsibility with pride.

 


 

[1] "Stanley Works is Using Electricity in New Stanlo Toy."The Hartford Courant, April 26, 1934.
[2] Rodengen, Jeffrey L. The Legend of Stanley: 150 years of The Stanley Works. Fort Lauderdale, FL: Write Stuff Syndicate, 1996. 83-84; "United States History." Unemployment Statistics during the Great Depression. Accessed February 07, 2018. http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1528.html.
[3] Rodengen, Jeffrey L. The Legend of Stanley: 150 years of The Stanley Works. Fort Lauderdale, FL: Write Stuff Syndicate, 1996. 84
[4] Bennett, Clarence F. "Management Reports-Their Use and Interpretation." National Association of Cost Accountants. NACA Bulletein17, no. 17 (May 1, 1936): 1028. Accessed February 7, 2018. ABI/INFORM Global.
[5] Magnell, A.E. "New Stanlo Product Is Going Big." The Hartford Courant, November 15, 1933.
[6] “Finds Children Giving Up Simple Toys to Parents: Thinking Games for Youngsters.” Chicago Daily Tribune, May 2 1933
[7] Lane, Charles. "Heartbreak Hotel." Chicago Magazine. June 19, 2007. Accessed February 07, 2018. http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/August-2006/Heartbreak-Hotel/
[8] Mortensen, Tine Froberg. "Timeline 1932 - 1939." 1930's. January 09, 2012. Accessed February 07, 2018. https://www.lego.com/en-us/aboutus/lego-group/the_lego_history/1930; “Toy Makers Plan Exhibit” The Taylor Daily Press April 11, 1933
[9] Magnell, A.E. "New Stanlo Product Is Going Big." The Hartford Courant, November 15, 1933.
[10] “A New Building Boom Starts with “Stanlo” Metal Toy Construction Sets.” The Philadelphia Inquirer November 17, 1933
[11] “Stanley Works Planning Manufacture of Toys” The Hartford Courant April 26 1933.
[12] Stanlo. "Make it with Stanlo: The New Metal Construction Toy in Brilliant Colors." Advertisement.
[13] “Toy Makers Plan Exhibit” The Taylor Daily Press April 11, 1933
[14] Magnell, A.E. "New Stanlo Product Is Going Big." The Hartford Courant, November 15, 1933.
[15] Magnell, A.E. "New Stanlo Product Is Going Big." The Hartford Courant, November 15, 1933.
[16] Hartford Courant February 8, 1935.
[17] "Stanley Works is Using Electricity in New Stanlo Toy." The Hartford Courant, April 26, 1934.
[18] “Construction Toys Hold Strong Appeal for Young American.” Altoona Tribune, November 25, 1933
[19] "Stanley Works is Using Electricity in New Stanlo Toy." The Hartford Courant, April 26, 1934.
[20] "Stanley Works is Using Electricity in New Stanlo Toy." The Hartford Courant, April 26, 1934.
[21] South Carolina Department of Commerce. "Stanley Black & Decker Opening Manufacturing Center in York County." News release, December 14, 2017. Accessed February 14, 2018. https://www.sccommerce.com/news/stanley-black-decker-opening-manufacturing-center-york-county.; "Stanley Black & Decker To Open New 300,000 Sq. Ft. Manufacturing Facility in Mission, TX." News release, October 31, 2017. PRNewswire. Accessed February 14, 2018. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/stanley-black--decker-to-open-n....