Louis Marx was a master of the toy world. The toy company that bears Louis Marx’s name was founded in 1919 and by the 1950s, Louis Marx & Co. achieved status as the largest toy manufacturer in the world. In the 1930s, Marx toy factory workers were busy producing all kinds of toys in Glen Dale, WV, Erie, PA, and Girard, PA. Time magazine named Louis Marx “The Toy King” in 1955.
The Marx Merry Makers mouse band was arguably the most popular lithographed tin wind-up toy ever made by the Louis Marx Company. Originally marketed in 1931, the Marx Merry Makers band sold for 91 cents. The original box shows printed directions for assembly of the metal band and its characters.
The Marx Merry Makers band was group of four mice playing as a band. Although the Merry Makers mice characters were based on the figure of Walt Disney’s famous mouse named Mickey, the overall form of this toy was a nod to the orchestras of the 1930s like Cab Calloway and others.
The band consisted of four lithographed tin mice members. The mice musicians are dressed in period tuxedos with a white shirt, black tie, red vest, etc. The Art Deco style lithography is carried over in the piano, instruments, marquee, and chairs. The dancer, pianist, drummer, and fiddler move when the toy is wound with its key. The four piece band includes a mouse that grooves while playing the piano, a mouse that dances beside the piano, a mouse that plays the drums. The fourth mouse either serves as the band leader or plays the violin. A Marx Merry Makers marque in a lunette shape was added to some versions of the toy.
The Louis Marx company produced various versions of this mouse band. Some have the band leader mouse on top of the piano with a large, half-moon marquee. Despite the variations, this toy speaks to the popularity of the big bands in American culture making the Merry Makers Band a fine and valuable collectible. Regularly, the Merry Makers toy band sells to collectors for $800 to $1200 retail.
The Marx Company produced many popular and culturally significant wind-up toys that referenced some of the most popular characters of the early 1900s such as Amos and Andy, Popeye, and the street cleaner, Tidy Tim. Marx famous wind-up toys which enjoyed widespread popularity from the 1930s through the 1960s attract collectors and historians to this day. Louis Marx sold his toy company in 1972.
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