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Toy inventor Samuel Small Schmidt

Samuel Small Schmidt in his Princeton Basketball Uniform (Credit: Princeton University Archives, Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP9, Image No. 4665)

Samuel Small Schmidt was born in York, Pennsylvania, on November 2, 1897. Sam is a son of George S. Schmidt and Mary R. (Small) Schmidt. Sam’s father was a prominent York lawyer, banker and businessman; plus an 1881 graduate of Princeton. Sam’s older brother George S. Schmidt, Jr. also graduated from Princeton, class of 1918.

The photo shows Samuel S. Schmidt in his Princeton basketball uniform. Sam left Princeton in June, 1918, to enter the Army Infantry during WWI; where he served as a Second Lieutenant. Following his discharge in December, 1918, he returned to Princeton, graduating with the class of 1919.

Samuel found employment with several York companies, among them were: American Chain Company, Steacy-Schmidt Manufacturing Company and York Safe & Lock Company. However it was not until 1926 that he found his calling when he took a job with the Grey Iron Casting Company of Mount Joy in Lancaster County, PA. Sam worked there until his retirement from the manufacturing field in 1950.

Sam’s initial job at the Grey Iron Casting Company was that of a salesman for ornamental ironwork that featured their ornamental cast iron products. Last month, June Lloyd’s post: Sign has been Hanging around Haines Road for 70 years presented a catalog Sam used to sell those products from his home in York at 932 South Beaver Street. In the 1930’s Sam continued as a salesman, but also became involved in designing products made by the Grey Iron Casting Company. Ruth Vickery Holmes notes on page 185 of her 1940 book on miniature figures, “Particularly attractive metal figures, designed by Samuel S. Schmidt, whose work has especial merit, are known as Greycraft.” Sam was also issued United States Patents on several of his toy creations; all being assigned to the Grey Iron Casting Company in Mount Joy.

Samuel S. Schmidt and his Toy Creations

For several years I’ve been researching interesting United States Patents issued to Yorkers. The patents that I’d discovered thus far for Samuel Small Schmidt have been mostly toy related; therefore I dubbed him “The Toy Inventor.” All of Samuel’s United States Patents are recorded as: “Samuel S. Schmidt, York, Pa., assignor to Grey Iron Casting Company, Mount Joy, Pa., a corporation of Pennsylvania.” As of this post, I’ve discovered four patents issued to Samuel S. Schmidt.

U.S. Patent No. 2,047,748 was issued on July 14, 1936, for “Toy and the Like” and relates to foldable or collapsible toy structures.

U.S. Patent No. 2,169,710 was issued on August 15, 1939, for “Toy” and relates to acrobatic toys, which are both amusing and instructive.

U.S. Patent No. 2,270,084 was issued on January 13, 1942, for “Display Device” and relates to improvements in display devices for toy soldiers or other miniature figures. This patent was applied for in 1938. During WWII, the Grey Iron Casting Company suspended the manufacture of all iron toys and ornamental ironwork, as they fully shifted production to support the war effort.

U.S. Design Patent No. 146,687 was issued on April 22, 1947, for “Design for a Tray or Similar Article” and relates to a new, original ornamental design.

Following Sam’s 1950 retirement from the Grey Iron Casting Company, he became one of the founders and the manager of the Colonial Shopping Center, on the northwest corner of South George Street and Country Club Road in York. Also in retirement, Samuel took up painting, focusing on scenes of York County, as well as views of the Delaware coast and the islands of Grenada, Haiti and Antigua. He exhibited at York Art Center and began his artistic pursuits by studying sculpturing under former Yorker Charles Rudy.

Samuel S. Schmidt died on September 3, 1970, and was predeceased by a daughter Helen M. Schmidt, who died in 1935, and his first wife Helen (Townsend) Schmidt, who died in 1951. Surviving Samuel are his second wife Sara S. (Wilcox) Schmidt, whom he married in 1954, and his daughter Mary Richardson (Schmidt) Doebele.

My choice for the most interesting United States Patent issued to Samuel is his invention of acrobatic toys, which are both amusing and instructive. The following header page, with Figures 1 and 11, are from U.S. Patent No. 2,169,710, which was issued to Samuel S. Schmidt on August 15, 1939.

Figures 1 and 11 from U.S. Patent No. 2,169,710; issued on August 15, 1939 (United States Patent and Trademark Office)

Quoting the first two paragraphs from Samuel’s U.S. Patent No. 2,169,710; which sets the state-of-the-art in acrobatic toys that existed prior to his invention that provided “full and free use of the child’s ingenuity and imagination.”

The present invention relates to toys and more particularly acrobatic toys, which are both amusing and instructive.

Children and even adults are fond of the circus and usually are thrilled by the daring feats of the acrobats. However, there is real difficulty in providing circus toys, which will stimulate a child’s interest in acrobatic feats, and at the same time be simple and comparatively inexpensive so that children from poor and rich families alike may purchase and enjoy them. It is important that the number of feats, which can be performed, be as great as possible and that the toy be capable of withstanding the rough usage to which children may subject it. A toy affording aerial feats such as trapeze gymnastics in addition to “ground work” is particularly desirable. It is further desirable that children may have the pleasure of, and training in, setting up the toy and that the toy may be stored in a small space. Attempts have been made to provide toys with one or more of the above characteristics, but the toys have been of an inferior type limited to one or a relatively few acrobatic feats. None has afforded unlimited action or full and free use of the child’s ingenuity and imagination.

Links to a few posts featuring United States Patents:

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