MINNITOYS were manufactured in Orillia Ontario by a company called Otaco. Most MINNITOY’S we see today were produced during the 1950’s as the company closed in the early 1960’s.
The company originally known as TUDHOPE – ANDERSON CO. started in the early 1900’s and produced steel wagon wheels for the farming industry, but went bankrupt in the early 1920’s. In 1927 the Royal Bank of Canada hired an American from the Midwest by the name of Ross Phelps, to manage the company. In 1936 Mr. Phelps purchased the company from the bank and renamed it OTACO LIMITED.
Under his direction OTACO became profitable and expanded its line to include other farm implements of the day such as plows, manure spreaders, disk harrows, cultivators, spring tooth harrows and the famous Autotrac conversion kit. This kit allowed you to turn that old car behind the shed into a tractor. They also produced many other metal parts for stoves, pumps, farm wagons and also rubber wheel manufacturing.
During WORLD WAR 11, the company produced rear wheel assemblies for the DEHAVILLAND “ MOSQUITO “ AIRCRAFT.
After the War ended, and loss of business for OTACO, Phelps was looking for new lines to produce. They kept on with farm machinery and lawn mowers etc. but needed more items to stay afloat. The Farm machinery industry had the major players such as JOHN DEERE and MASSEY HARRIS producing more modern items, that had more appeal to the farmer as the late 40 ’s and early 50’s were good times for farmers.
The late 40’s and early 50’s were also a good time in the nations bedrooms as the production of babies was at an all time high, and we had what is known as the BABY BOOM. Phelps saw an opportunity to produce toys for all these kids, as OTACO had all the equipment needed to produce such an item.
I am told the first to be produced in small amounts was the Bulldozer set and the shovel. I believe the “old style cab” truck was close behind. Soon to follow was the newer cab style and the MINNITOY as we know it today was born.
Competition, price and the on slot of plastic toys saw the end of production in the early 1960’s and the company closed down. At its peak in production during the 50’s as many as 1600 people worked for OTACO. Total produced is estimated to be over 200,000.