«Good toys are vitamins for children»
Åsmund S. Lærdal
The company made toys from cardboard, wood and plastic from 1941 until 1978. The Anne-dolls and the Tomte cars in soft plastic were best-sellers all over the world. Children's Happiness was Åsmund Lærdal's motto.
Åsmund Lærdal constantly had ideas for new products. A number of the printed items for children in his period as a publisher can also be considered as toys. A picture book could be used as a house, another book was shaped like a car with wheels, or as a clock with hands. He also made jigsaw puzzles, cardboard bricks, Advent calendars with toy figures and activity books. When, after three years, the company branched out into toy production, the way was short. «It was only a matter of finding toys which fitted in to the production that we already had going», writes Henning Kleven, a previous employee in the company.
Production during the Second World War was carried on using partly home-made equipment, but there were machines for the wooden toys. But when the company went over to manufacturing plastic toys, they had to think innovatively. Machines from other industries were acquired and adapted. For the dolls, a kneading machine from a bakery was used, a rotational machine was built with the help of bicycle chains and a shoe-maker's sewing machine used to sew on dolls' hair.
When were the toys made?
The production of dolls ceased in the 1960s. It was earlier claimed that it ceased in 1965. Thomas Bjelland who started working in the factory in 1967 remembers the last despatch of a doll in that year. It might have been a special order. Even so, we have decided on the basis of this to date cessation of production of dolls to 1967.
It was earlier claimed that the first Tomte car was sold in 1960. However, an advertisement from January 1959 has been found (Kvisgaard and Otlo). On the grounds of this we have dated the beginning of the production of Tomte cars to 1959.
Summary of periods when toys were made:
Printed items for children: 1941 – 1975
Wooden toys: 1943-1954
Toys in soft plastic: 1950-1978
Anne dolls: 1953-1967
Tomte cars: 1959-1978
Written by Hege Stormark, Norwegian Children's Museum and Stavanger School Museum
Kleven, Henning, unpublished manuscript about Laerdal, 1989
Tjomsland, Nina, Heart in the work. Lærdals first 50 years, 1990