The PopCult Bookshelf
I picked this book up from the authors last month at an event held in conjunction with the Marx Toy Convention, and it’s an absolute gem. Anyone interested in toy manufacturing, Northern West Virginia history or post-war industrial America should seek out Memories of Marx Toys: Glen Dale.
Gary Rider and Roseanna Dakan Keller have crafted an exhaustive history of the Marx Toys Glen Dale, West Virginia plant, pre-dating Marx toys and going all the way to the days of the Marx Toy Museum. They do this by weaving deep research with a stirring oral history provided by dozens of Marx Factory employees and their families. The book is also generously illustrated with photos and images from the factory.
It’s a trip to find out that, before Marx Toys took over, the factory built Fokker Aircraft. Memories of Marx Toys: Glen Dale opens with a detailed look at the fall of the fabled airplane maker, and how that left an opening for Marx Toys to choose Glen Dale for one of their manufacturing plants. It’s a wild to discover that the legendary Fokker Triplane was made in the same building as Big Wheels and Johnny West.
Memories of Marx Toys: Glen Dale is a fascinating look at how toys were made in the days before OSHA, before outsourcing to other countries, and before Marx Toys themselves shut down operations. We learn how life was for an every day worker at the factory, including some downright frightening tales of dangerous incidents at the plant and the aftermath of chemical exposure. However, the overwhelming aura of this book is that of a fond rememberance of a factory that provided employment for hundreds, if not thousands of households in the Glen Dale/Moundsville area for decades.
The book winds up with a profile of Francis Turner and a history of The Marx Toy Museum, which is one of my favorite places in the world. It follows the opening of the museum, the closing and even the visit by American Pickers a few years ago. I think Francis deserves a book of his own someday, but this is a great start and taught me a lot of new facts about my friend.
While Memories of Marx Toys: Glen Dale is obviously a must-have book for any fan or collector of Marx Toys, it will also appeal to anybody who would like a well-crafted story about a small factory town and the people who lived there.
To quote the PR blurb:
Founded in August 1919 in New York City by Louis Marx and his brother David, the company’s aim was to “give customers more toy for less money.” They were so successful in this venture, that at one time Marx Toys was the largest toy manufacturer in the world. The Glen Dale facility, in its’ heyday, employed more than 2,000 workers and had multiple buildings in Glen Dale and McMechen.
But this story is about the people that made the toys that children around the world loved to have on Christmas morning. Their lives were dedicated to bringing that job and happiness to youngsters that opened those presents on that day and had happiness delivered to their doors.
You can order Memories of Marx Toys: Glen Dale from Amazon in Hardback or Paperback editions, and I hope that it turns up in museum gift shops all around the state. You might also be able to order it from your local bookseller using the ISBN number above.