DCMT - Crescent - Lone★Star
These three companies have an intertwined history. According to Geoffrey S. Ambridge, in his book "Toys That Time Forgot", the origins of Die Casting Machine Tools Limited began in July 1939 in a large lock-up garage in Green Lanes, London. Originally the premises went under the name of "Toys and Houseware" but in the mid 1940s the firm was re-registered as A.G.M. Industries Ltd. (Ambridge, Gower, and Mills). Between 1936 and 1941, at least some of the future staff of A.G.M. were still employed by "British Die Casting & Engineering Co. Ltd." of Pembroke Road, New Southgate, London. Two of them were Sidney J Ambridge and die-caster 'Fred' Middleditch.
The late Aubrey Robert Mills, working alone in a garage in 1940, designed and built his first die-casting machine. With a partner, Sidney J Ambridge, he built and sold more machines, taking on an apprentice to assist with production of the machines. The co-founders of this business registered the business name "Die Casting Machine Tools" and this was incorporated as a limited liability company in August 1940.
DCMT sold its machinery to other die casting firms - most notably Crescent and Lesney. The story of Lesney is well known to diecast collectors and it warrants mention here only because the two Smiths started their venture with a DCMT-made machine and were then joined by an ex-DCMT employee, Jack Odell. The relationship with Crescent warrants more explanation - Crescent were already a well known firm having produced hollow cast lead soldiers and other figures since the early 1920s.
Like all other manufacturing firms in the UK, DCMT were involved in the production of components for use in the "war effort" during WW II. After the war, DCMT decided that the best way to show the potential of their machines was to make diecast toys themselves, however, as it was common at the time to think of manufacturing and distribution as two separate businesses, the decision was made to use the Crescent company to market the toys.
By 1947, DCMT had taken more than half the floor area of the "River Works" (also in Green Lanes, London), but the remainder of the River Works was soon taken over as production of the company's toys, those marketed by Crescent, and those produced for other companies increased during the post-war years.
Among the items produced, and marketed by Crescent, were a Fire Engine (complete with firemen and an operating ladder) that appeared in Crescent advertising in 1949, a Jaguar Saloon Car, a Jaguar Police Car set (with two policemen, two Police dogs, and two "robbers"), a Garage Hoist, and an Atomic Jet Gun.
Rather than producing toys under their own banner of "DCMT", the company began marketing their toys as "Slikka Toys" or 'Slikka Playthings'. The Jaguar and Fire Engine mentioned above, were also marketed as "Slikka Toys". However this was a relatively short-lived venture and a new brand name was sought.
As it happened, in 1949 they had produced a Western style toy pistol they had called the "Lone Star". DCMT had a large range of Western-themed toys in their range and by 1951 the decision had been made to use it as the new brand name. According to Geoffrey Ambridge "Lone★Star" was to be the Toy Division and the other division would deal with commercial castings and the sale of die-casting machines.
During the 1950s, boys were allowed to imagine they were Wild West heroes, spacemen, or pirates, with toys aligned with those dreams being produced by the toy companies. However the girls were not so fortunate and most toy companies only produced toys that "trained" the girls for the domestic roles they were expected to fulfill. DCMT was no different and its range of girls' items included such things as scissors, miniature pots and pans, miniature food mincers, miniature cookers (ovens), dolls furniture, miniature "Hoover' irons, and the 'Peter Pan' Pastry Set.
By the time DCMT began producing model vehicles (1956) and OOO gauge rail items (1957) the name "Lone★Star" had gained recognition due to the popularity of their toy guns and "Western" items. It was natural for them to use the brand name for their toy and model items and the earliest known "Lone★Star" trade catalogue was published in 1957. Prior to that date, only a few undated illustrated leaflets are known to have existed, in fact many of the items produced at the "River Works" in Palmers Green between 1945 and 1956 never appeared in any printed publicity materials that has been found.
Also in 1956 DCMT purchased a small business in North London called Harvey. This business had been set up by Harvey Eagles, a member of the family that ran Crescent Toys, and manufactured metal figures. The tooling was adapted for use with plastic and a vast range of figures were produced over the next couple of decades that included Knights, Robin Hood figures, American Civil War figures, the Foreign Legion, Cowboys, Indians, Zulus, as well as Paratroopers, Guardsmen, Highlanders, and many other Military figures. Vehicles and accessories were added to the range so that by 1959 there were 18 models in the Army series and over 200 different Harvey figures.
As previously mentioned the manufacture of model vehicles began in 1956, although technically this is not accurate. In the late 1940s DCMT/Lone★Star had, tentatively, ventured into the die-cast metal car market with the Fire Engine, Jaguar, and other vehicles based on Tootsietoys. However during 1956 DCMT/Lone★Star released the original "Road-Masters" series consisting of a 1904 Darracq, a 1904 Daimler, a 1912 Ford Model T, a 1912 Morris Oxford Bullnose, a 1955 MG TF sports car, a 1956 US Ford Thunderbird, and a 1956 Daimler Conquest Roadster. These were sold in pairs but unfortunately, for reasons unknown, the series was short lived. It wasn't until the 1960s that the RoadMasters name re-emerged, this time with a range of American cars in 1:50 scale as part of a deal with Tootsietoy who wanted the benefits of Lone★Star's moulding accuracy, at a time they themselves were producing only simple castings, in order to compete with the likes of Dinky and Corgi who were targeting the US toy market. Numbered in the catalogues as 1470 to 1482, there were 13 items in the range, 11 contemporary US cars, 1 Rolls Royce, and 1 Citroen (DS19).
Dinky were losing ground to Matchbox by the mid 1960s and it is thought this is why Lone★Star dropped the 1:50 Roadmaster series to introduce a new range of models, in a smaller scale, that they named Lone★Star Roadmaster Impy Super Cars. These smaller cars all boasted working features such as opening doors, engine compartments, and boots with luggage. The first two releases were of cars, but the third release consisted of commercial vehicles such as trucks, construction equipment, and a fire engine. This was followed by Mattel's introduction of their HotWheels range, and Lone★Star reacted by releasing a range called Flyers that were fitted with low friction axles, were devoid of steering and jeweled lights, and could be run on a track called a Flyway. From here on austerity seems to have crept into play as the casting quality and range reduced until Lone★Star changed direction once again and released a new product range called Tuf-Tots in 1969.
Tuf-Tots were 1:118 scale commercials and 1:86 scale cars with simple detail and few embellishments. In all 27 commercials were released, ranging from a horse box to a low loader articulated truck. The 4 cars (all convertible sports cars) were a Citroen DS, a Corvette Stingray, a Dodge Dart, and a Mercedes 280SL. Other Tuf-Tot items included a Jeep with trailer, a London bus, a caravan, and a boat and trailer.
During the 1970s Lone★Star seemed to abandon scale model releases and concentrated on making larger and simpler toys designed for younger children. While robust, these toys were less than realistic so few are of interest to the collector. Some of these are, however, of interest to collectors with specialist themes, e.g. the Farmer's Boy series of tractors and accessories, or the Highway Constructors range of roading equipment, etc., both of which were still in production in the mid to late 1980s. They did however continue with miscellaneous scale items for the souvenir market, to which they had catered for several decades, with a range of London buses, London taxis, Fire Engines, and a State Coach (without horses) that was released in 1977 in silver to mark the Queen's Silver Jubilee, and again in 1981 in gold to mark the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana.
Lone★Star's main lines throughout the 1970s and 1980s continued to be the cowboy toys for which the brand is best known and a stream of licensed products related to TV and film. However, like most UK toy manufacturers, they could not compete successfully with the manufacturers of Asia. The Lone★Star company was taken over by a German based group, Sohni-Esco. Under the new ownership it diversified and distributed fancy dress items, party poppers, sports goods, and other items, some of which date from its earlier life such as the Zorro's Mask, the Sheriff's Badges, the guns, the hats, and the Spudmatic Potato Gun. Die Casting Machine Tools Limited, which no longer had a connection with Lone Star Toys, remained in business as a manufacturer of high pressure, high velocity, hot and cold diecasting machinery, furnaces and ancillary equipment into the late 1990s.