The information below has been supplied with the very kind permission of Fiona Ure, Curator, Leicestershire Museum Service, Leics. County Council I would like to extend my wholehearted thanks for her help in my research.
Click here to download printable Palitoy panels pdf (as shown opposite)
Click here to view exhibits from the Exhibition
In 1919 Alfred Pallett set up Cascelloid Ltd in Britannia St. Leicester. He was 18 years old. (The factory had been a lodging house with 50 beds and occupants, cost £4,000 and had to be deloused before the hand presses could be installed). Sales in the first year amounted to £90.0. In the early years-had to pawn his personal possessions to pay the factory bills.
The first big order was for 1,240 gross of soap boxes for F. W. Woolworth, retailed at 6d each. 1920-carte blanche order for ‘Flitafast’ windmills. Sold in Woolworth’s for 2d. Once Woolworth’s was on board, business boomed.
Paid 6d an hour and soon gained a reputation as a good factory to work for.
The first doll was produced in 1925. This was the Mabel Lucy Atwell ‘Diddums’ doll, one of the first examples of licensing as we know it today. The doll remained in production for some 20 years and came in 3 sizes, 6d, 1s, 2/6d.
By 1927 the company had 60 workers and an annual turnover of £10,000. The same year the Britannia works were destroyed by fire. The company moved to a larger site in Cobden St, Leicester.
New lines were introduced-toilet articles, advertising novelties, and Kewpie dolls. By 1930 Cascelloid products were being made for Woolworth’s, Marks and Spencer, Boots, Rowntree Limited, Courtaulds and Huntley Palmer.
1931, The Cascelloid company became a subsidiary of British Xylonite Co. Ltd. (B.X.L.).
In 1932 the company moved again-to Abbey Lane, Leicester.
In 1935 the Palitoy trademark was registered. This had been delayed due to a remote Indian village called Pali!
1937 - Coalville-bought a billiard hall cum dance hall. 1938 bought adjoining land, 31/2 acres, primarily to make dolls.
The company offered workers ‘Good wages, 5 day week, good working conditions, music while you work, pleasant canteen’.
Pallett retired from Cascelloid in 1943. Director of Leicester City Football Club for 40 yr., from 1939 onwards. Died in 1983 aged 82.
During W.W.II-factory requisitioned-produced anti-gas eye shields, bomb noses, tails of laminated paper and special paper containers for dropping supplies.
After the war the company began making games and toys as well as dolls at Coalville. New lines included table tennis sets, handicraft sets and fitted workboxes.
1963 - the toy division at Coalville was separated from the rest of the Casceloid Company.
1968 - BXL sold Palitoy division to General Mills Inc. of the USA thus becoming part of a group containing Kenner and Parker Brothers. General Mills Inc. was an American giant in food products that diversified into other consumer products.
1977 - New buildings at the factory to provide more space for new products.
Baker Street, Coalville was opened as a Customer Service Department and to produce and despatch Mainline Railways. Plus-Employees Shop and Sample dept., Display Dept. Workshop and Dolls Hospital. The Action Man Star Scheme and other gift schemes operated from Baker St. ¼ m. items annually in the Action Man scheme alone.
In 1978 the company employed about 1,000 people. In November that year sales topped £20m for the first time in company’s history.
From 1st January 1980 the group (Palitoy, Denys Fisher & Chad Valley) ceased to trade under the umbrella of the General Mills UK Toy Group and became The Palitoy Company.
In 1980 redundancies started. At this time the company had 2 factories in Coalville-Owen St and Baker St. and warehouses at Ashby, (opened in 1975) and Glenfield. By 1982 nearly 450 jobs had been lost.
In 1983 Palitoy had 15% of the British toy market.
In 1983 Palitoy won ‘Top Toy Company Shield’ and’ Toy of the Year Award’ for Star Wars.
In 1986 Palitoys European businesses, Mainline, Airfix and Action Man, collapsed. Direct result of a re-organisation of the business by General Mills Inc. They decided to abandon all European product development. Instead subsidiary companies would be offered a ‘shopping list’ of USA designed products which they could repackage for sale in Europe. At Coalville the entire design department and the Mainline sites were closed and the Airfix archive destroyed.
Coalville factory closed despite the success of Trivial Pursuit because of a policy of subcontracting which allowed less flexibility i.e. a factory that makes board games can’t make Star Wars models.
When the factory formally closed in 1994 it was owned by Hasbro but production had ceased years before.
Early ‘Diddums’ dolls-1925 - Made by the ‘blowing’ method-using super heated steam between 2 sheets of celluloid held in a steam heated mould. Steam was blown into the sheets to inflate them into the shapes of the doll parts. Patent registered in 1939.
Early 1930s - Pallet invented a new unbreakable material for doll making, ‘Plastex’, with a secret ingredient-glue made from rabbit bones. Plastex was a liquid which when poured into a chilled mould gelled to create the form. After extraction it was dried out in warm air ovens cleaned and painted.
Palitoy made the first non-flammable doll with Bexoid in 1935 and this was presented to Queen Mary.
In 1938 the first injection moulding machines were brought into the country and the first plastic toy cars were produced at Palitoy in 1939.
1941 - Mr Pallett registered a patent for a plastic doll whose parts were made in 2 halves by injection moulding and then joined.
In 1947 Palitoy developed Patsy, the first crying, wetting, drinking doll, made from vinyl. Even today American crying dolls are made on the company’s patent. Vinyl meant hair could be stitched directly onto the head. Moulding was softer, more pliable and unbreakable.
Pre Xmas 1977 Palitoy spent £600,000 on TV airtime alone. More than 1000 separate commercials were transmitted. Children saw Palitoy adverts over 200 Million times. In 1978 TV airtime expenditure was doubled to £1,200, 000.
Palitoy and the Far East
Relationship began in 1963 with doll’s dresses and accessories made for Tressy. With the launch of Action Man-this range of goods increased. At one time nearly the whole of Action Man came from Hong Kong-Cheung Kong Industries Ltd. Palitoy (Far East) Ltd. was set up in 1977.
Originally obtained goods from many small companies/streamlined into a few large ones-Kader Industries, Alice Doll fashions, Mego, Perfekta, Tomy and Playmates.
Named after founder, Mr Denys Fisher, set up in early 1960s. Fisher was an engineer and inventor. He invented Spirograph. Taken over by General Mills in 1970.
Products in 1978 included: Basil Brush, Fred Basset, Nookie Bear soft toys and Games featuring the Generation Game, It’s a Knockout, Multi-coloured Swap Shop and New Avengers.
Formed in 1860 when brothers Joseph and Alfred Johnson set up a printing and stationary business in Birmingham.
In 1897 the company moved to Harborne. The Factory was called the Chad Valley works after a nearby stream. Toy production began with cardboard games and then simple toys.
Acquired by General Mills in 1978 when the Chad Valley range included Mr Men characters, Smurfs and soft toys for Mothercare.
Inspiration=an American doll, GI Joe brought back from a visit to USA and owned by Hasbro who allowed it to be made under license by Palitoy.
Les Cooke the production manager at Palitoy came up with the name Action Man from a TV series at the time called Danger Man.
The original Action Man had a scar on his right cheek, a hard plastic head and body with moveable joints in his arms and legs. His moulded hair was available in four colours yellow, black, brown or red.
The first range was Action soldier, Action sailor and Action Pilot in basic uniforms with dog tags. Launched 1966 at a Brighton Toy Fair. Not kitted out with British uniform and weapons until 1970.
1966 -1979-sold 8 million jointed figures and over 15 million uniforms and accessories. In 1978 - public spent over £11m on Action Man range.
Exported to Belgium, Scandinavia and Old Commonwealth. Made under license in Australia, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
Demobbed in 1984 as the Company who owned Palitoy, General Mills, was becoming more and more interested in new toys like Care Bears and fantasy products and Action Man was getting more expensive to make.
Action Man Development
1970 Realistic hair/beard
1973 Gripping hands
1976 Eagle eyes
1978 Talking model
Entire range revamped with a new body with out metal rivets.
1966 Toy of the Year
1974 & 1975 Toys International Top Toy Trophy
1975 National Association of Toy Retailers 10 year Gold Award
1980 NATR Toy of the DecadeIn 1993 Hasbro re launched the Action man range.
Tiny Tears dolls were first introduced in America by the America Character Doll Company in the 1950s. Palitoy introduced the doll to Britain in 1965.
The doll was specially jointed so that however it was held; the limbs would fall into a realistic ‘baby like’ position. Tiny Tears would also drink from her bottle, cry “real” tears, wet her nappy and blow bubbles.
The doll was popular from the start and voted Girls Toy of the Year by the National Association of Toy Retailers in 1966. The doll cost 53s 3d (£2.66).
When Palitoy ceased trading the rights to Tiny Tears went through various hands, Tonka, Hasbro, Ideal and since 1996, Playmates.
Palitoy launched their first teenage fashion doll, Tressy, in 1964. She was the first Palitoy product to be promoted on TV and retailed at 30s.6d (£1.52).
Tressy’s special feature was her growing hair in dark brown, platinum blonde or beige. Turning a key in her back altered the hair length.
Tressy was a huge success for Palitoy, especially when accessories and other dolls, such as her sister, Toots, were introduced. Each doll had a wardrobe of fashionable clothes designed for every occasion. The final doll was produced in 1979.
Pippa was first made by Palitoy in 1972 and cost 60p. She was 6.5” tall; half the size of other fashion dolls like Barbie and was marketed as ‘the pocket money fashion doll that puts fashion in your pocket’.
Pippa won Doll of the Year in 1975. Other dolls and accessories were added to the range from 1973-1980. This included Pippa’s friends, – Marie, Tammy, Emma, Britt, and boyfriend Pete. Each doll had a unique look, with different colours of hair, eyes and skin tone. Pippa dolls were discontinued in 1982.
The American Greeting Corporation introduced Strawberry Shortcake as a greeting card character in 1979-80.
Kenner, USA, started producing Strawberry Shortcake dolls in 1980 and Palitoy introduced them to Britain under licence.
The first dolls were Strawberry Shortcake, Blueberry Muffin, Huckleberry Pie and Apple Dumplin’. Each doll was scented to correspond with their name.
As their popularity grew, new dolls and accessories were added to the range, including a pet for each character in 1981, miniature dolls and play sets. By 1984, there were over 500 products in the range.
Production ceased in the mid-80s. The dolls were re-issued in 1991, but were not as popular the second time around. However, the dolls have recently undergone a third transformation and were re-launched by Bandai in 2003.
Care Bears started out as characters on greeting cards for the American Greetings Corporation in 1981. They were developed into soft toys by Kenner, USA, in 1983, and from 1984 were made under licence by Palitoy.
Each Care Bear had it’s own personality represented by a symbol that appeared on its tummy.
Originally, there were 10 different characters: -Bedtime Bear, Birthday Bear, Cheer Bear, Friend Bear, Funshine Bear, Good Luck Bear, Grumpy Bear, Love-A-Lot Bear, Tenderheart Bear and Wish Bear.
Palitoy ceased manufacture of the bears in 1986 but the bears and their merchandise continued into the early 1990s. To coincide with their 20th anniversary, Care Bears were re-launched in 2003.
Introduced in 1976.
Authentic 00 gauge trains made from detailed British Rail drawings. Made in Hong Kong for Palitoy.
The range went out of production in 1986.
Sub-licensed from Kenner, USA, ‘a sister company’.
Original products made to coincide with the films British opening in January 1978-small figures of the main characters, 12 in dolls of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, masks, kites, model vehicles, Play Doh and games.
By 1984 25mm. mini figures sold, more than one toy per head of child population and range included 70 different toys. £50 m. worth sold in 1983.
Airfix became part of Palitoy in 1982 when the design team was moved to Coalville and kit production was transferred to a Palitoy factory in France.
Dapol Model Railways eventually acquired some of the railway moulds in 1985. The non-railway range was sold in 1986 to Humbrol based in France when Palitoy ceased production in 1986.
Palitoy Exhibition -
Donington le Heath Manor House September 2009
The information below has been supplied with the very kind permission of Fiona Ure, Curator, Leicestershire Museum Service, Leics. County Council.
Click here to download printable Palitoy panels pdf (as shown right above)
Click here to view exhibits from the Exhibition
An exhibition charting the rise and fall of the famous Leicestershire toy maunfacturer, Palitoy, is now on show at Donington Le Heath Manor House.
Throughout the 60s and 70s Palitoy’s main factory was in Owen Street in Coalville and most people from the area know someone who worked at the factory which employed 1,000 workers at its height of production.
The exhibition displays many of the famous Palitoy products including the hugely successful Action Man and Pippa, but also some items less commonly associated with the company, such as model trains. The items on display are from the Leicesterhire Museums collection of home and family life.
Keeper of Home and Family Life for the council’s Museum Service, Fiona Ure, said: “This was a great exhibition to create, as not only is it a famous brand with some excellent products, but a local one too.
“We made contact with many local people who were involved in the company and were able to tell some of their stories in the exhbition. The company touched many local lives that even if you didn’t work there yourself, you knew someone who did and all the local children played with Palitoy toys!”
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