Mound Metalcraft was created in 1946 in Mound, Minnesota by Lynn Everett Baker (1898–1964), Avery F. Crounse, and Alvin F. Tesch. Their original intent was to manufacture garden implements. Their building’s former occupant, the Streater Company, had made and patented several toys. E.C. Streater was not interested in the toy business so they approached Mound Metalcraft. The three men at Mound Metalcraft thought they might make a good side line to their other products. After some modifications to the design by Alvin Tesch and the addition of a new logo created by Erling Eklof; based on a University of Minnesota drafting student’s sketch by Donald B. Olson who later became the company Chief Industrial Engineer; with the Dakota Sioux word “Tanka” or Tonka, which means “great” or “big”, the company began selling metal toys which soon became the primary business. In November, 1955, Mound Metalcraft changed its name to Tonka Toys Incorporated. The logo at this time was an oval, showing the Tonka Toys name in red above waves, presumably honoring nearby Lake Minnetonka. In 1964, Tonka acquired the Mell Manufacturing Company in Chicago, allowing it to produce barbecue grills, eventually under the Tonka Firebowl label. In 1987, Tonka purchased Kenner Parker, including UK toy giant Palitoy, for $555 million, borrowing extensively to fund the acquisition. However, the cost of servicing the debt meant Tonka itself had to find a buyer and it was eventually acquired by Hasbro in 1991. In 2001, Tonka trucks were inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong in Rochester, New York. Tonka has produced a variety of toys over the years, including dolls (Star Fairies, Bathing Beauties, Maple Town, and Hollywoods) and other toys aimed at girls like Keypers and aimed at boys like Gobots, Rock Lords, Spiral Zone, and Steel Monsters. It was the original manufacturer of the Pound Puppies toy line, and in the late 1980s licensed products inspired by Maple Town. Tonka produced video games, including Tonka Raceway, and purchased the rights to distribute and market the Sega Master System after Sega of America stopped competing against the Nintendo Entertainment System in the U.S. However, the Master System’s market share declined, since Tonka didn’t have experience with video games or how to market them. Hasbro sold the digital gaming rights for various properties (including My Little Pony, Magic: The Gathering, Tonka, Playskool, and Transformers) to Infogrames for US$100 million in 2000, buying back the rights for US$66 million in June 2005.
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