Did you know that as part of Breyer's 70th birthday celebrations, we're taking a stroll through Breyer history all year on our social media channels? Naturally, as January is the first month of the year, we explored the ground floor of Breyer history: the 1950s! In case you missed it, here's a round-up of the topics we explored. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter so you don't miss out on our next step into Breyer history: the creative and innovative 1960s.
It felt right to start our journey through Breyer's history with our very first model, the iconic #57 Western Horse in palomino. First produced to adorn a mantelpiece clock for the company Mastercrafters, the Breyer Molding Company of Chicago found its calling when they were suddenly inundated with requests to buy just the horse!
The #57 was one of the longest-running Breyer models of all time, in production from 1950 all the way through 1991. He came in almost innumerable variations during that 40+ year span, including three different saddle styles, multiple varieties of chain link reins, glossy and matte finishes, and a body color that ranged from deep caramel to glowing gold. Breyer's personal archive model dates to the end of the run, around 1990.
The slogan from the Western Horse's original sales flyer still rings true 70 years later - a Breyer model horse is a toy, a welcome gift, and an art object all in one, because it's so real!
A later version of the #57 Western Horse compared with his original 1950s sales ad.
Collector Deirdre Price has "a house full of Western Horses!" This is just a sample of her
enormous Western Horse conga.
Deirdre's collection also includes an assortment of Mastercrafters clocks, with both styles of configuration: horse to the right of the clock, and the rarer horse over the clock.
Photos by Deirdre Price
First sculpted in the 1950s as the Breyer Molding Company began shifting its focus towards animal models, the Small Poodle was ultimately shelved in favor of the larger Poodle mold. The mold's existence was only known because of a single salesman's sample painted blue-grey and white, which was acquired by a collector in 1996. After looking through old inventory lists, which listed molds for both a "large poodle" and "small poodle," the molding equipment was pulled out of storage and the mysterious dog was verified as a genuine Breyer model!
At BreyerFest 1997, the Small Poodle would finally make its official debut. A surprise raffle was held on the Friday evening, and four sets of Small Poodles in glossy black, apricot, grey and white went home with lucky winners! To date, the mold has only had one other release - "Cotton Candy" the pink Poodle, who was a special run of 600 pieces for BreyerFest's 2009 Birthday Bash.
The full set of BreyerFest 1997 Small Poodles.
The original 1950s salesman's sample Small Poodles, including the aforementioned blue-grey piece. The pink poodle is another 1950s sample that was discovered in the early 2000s - to date, these two are still the only vintage examples known to exist.
Photo by Kirsten Wellman
The Clydesdale Stallion was Breyer's very first draft horse model, introduced in 1958. Did you know that the Clydesdale Stallion mold comes in two different versions? The original Clydesdale, produced from 1958 to about 1961, has a very smooth body with little definition. This "non-muscled" version was released in glossy honey bay, woodgrain, and glossy dapple grey.
Around 1962, a retooled version of the Clydesdale was introduced. This retooling added more facial definition, veining, and the strong musculature that we now know. Those three original non-muscled Clydesdales also came in muscled versions - if you haven't already, take a look at your collection and see which version you have!
An original honey bay "no-muscle" Clydesdale Stallion, dating from between 1958 and 1961.
The "no-muscle" honey bay compared to a later Clydesdale Stallion model from the retooled mold. Note the differences in the shoulder, neck and barrel area.
Breyer, of course, exclusively produces model horses and animals now, but in the early days of the company that wasn't always the case!
Here are a few examples of other early plastic products that the Breyer Molding Company manufactured: the "My Own Money Manager" was a miniature filing cabinet toy designed to be used as a bank for children. The Money Manager came in both red and forest green. Its original ad promises that the Money Manager is "purposely designed to teach the value of money the easy way!"
Breyer also manufactured sets of plastic poker chips and checkers. These used the same base design, styled after an "Arabian coin," but varied from each other in color and thickness.
A red Money Manager and sets of Breyer poker chips and checkers.
Photos by Andrea Gurdon
One of the last, but most important, additions to the Breyer lineup in the 1950s was the Woodgrain! Woodgrain models were the first commercially-available Breyer horses decorated with an unrealistic finish.
The Family Arabian Stallion was among Breyer's initial Woodgrain offerings in 1959, alongside a handful of other models including the Brahma Bull and the much-coveted Proud Arabian Mare! The first models were enough of a hit for Breyer to continue to produce them into the 1960s, expanding the lineup with additional molds.
Woodgrain models are plastic, but skillfully painted to simulate a polished wood finish. Fun fact - these models usually have a circular spot on their bellies from where the paint pooled as they were drying, which tends to look like a "knot" that you would find in real wood!
A Woodgrain Family Arabian Stallion, part of Breyer's introductory Woodgrain lineup in 1959.
Some Woodgrain models, such as the Race Horse and the Fighting Stallion (released a year later in 1960), featured hand-painted white socks and facial markings.