Alongside American Thermos and the fantastic Aladdin Industries, the Ohio Art Company became known as one of the “big three” lunch boxes manufacturers during the 1950s.
The roots of the company were formed by Henry S. Winzeler, a dentist and art enthusiast from Archbold, Ohio in 1908. In the early days it was mainly picture frames and other novelty items that rolled off the production line. Gradually, as printing and lithograph technology evolved towards the end of the First World War, Henry moved into the toy business adding in windmills, drums, tea sets and of course the famous “climbing monkey”.
Ohio’s success continued during the interwar period and a year after incorporating in 1930, they paid a $6 dividend to shareholders. Steel restrictions from 1942 to the end of WWII shut down the company’s toy manufacturing processes which were converted – albeit temporarily – to produce technical parts for the military.
By the 1950s, the metal lunch box craze was in full swing and Ohio, who had a background in lunch pails (the precursor of “modern” metal lunch boxes), played a significant part in it. Business was healthy and the profits from this period enabled Henry to pick up on an idea developed by French inventor and electrician Andre Cassagnes which later evolved into the all-time classic children’s toy, the Etch-A-Sketch system.
Today, Ohio Art has two main business divisions. The first is still centered around Etch-A-Sketch plus other popular toys, and the second remains focused on the metal lithography technology which propelled the mass lunchbox popularity of the 1950s.
Whilst arguably not as well known as Aladdin Industries, there is no doubt about the quality and collectibility of Ohio’s lunch transport products. Here is one of the company’s vintage pieces, a rare 1982 Jack & Jill box from 1982. This particular example was listed on eBay for $125: