Aimed at a younger age group, Marx produced the Pull Lever and Learn tin toy in 1968. This is a simple educational, sight-recognition and reading toy that might remind you of an alternative to Matell’s See ‘n Say. The See ‘n Say was an educational toy created by Mattel in 1965 after the success of its talking Chatty Cathy doll. In contrast, the Marx Pull Lever and Learn toy has no intended sound. The only noise this vintage tin toy makes is the spinning of the metal drum and the clink of the handle as it locks the drum after it springs back into place.
Here’s how it works:
The player pulls the lever toward himself. The drum spins in a fashion similar to an old slot machine, except that on the Pull Lever and Learn toy there are four pictures instead of three like you see in Las Vegas. Since the handle is spring-loaded, the user should wait a few seconds before letting go while the drum spins. When the handle moves forward again, it locks the spinning drum in place, stopping all motion. At this point, a picture appears in each of the four windows. The player must name each of the pictures he sees. To check whether they’re right, the player then lifts the little plastic shield to reveal the correct answers.
This is a simple toy capable of entertaining a younger child for hours. It’s not so hard as to cause the child to become discouraged, yet it’s challenging enough to hold his interest for a while. The possibility of return sessions to this vintage toy will likely depend on the age of the child and the speed at which each child is capable of learning. For the youngest, parental assistance would be required to read the answers until the child recognizes the words on his own.
The Wolverine Toy Company released a series of toys like this. Wolverine‘s “learning toys” are relatively plentiful compared to the more scarce Marx Pull Lever and Learn. While Marx made only one model of the Pull Lever and Learn, the Wolverine toys came in the models shown below.
Decidely larger toys, Wolverine boasts that theirs are made in the U.S.A. – Made in Japan, likely by IWAYA, Marx’s Pull Lever and Learn is lightweight at just under 11 ounces (about 300kg) and measures only 4″H x 5″W x 4 3/8″D (approx. 10cm x 12cm x 11cm). This size is ideal for the intended age group and little fingers.
According to the Marx Museum website, “The old story was that Louis Marx never had an idea of his own but would encourage his employees to buy toys from other manufacturers and if they showed promise, Marx would change them slightly and mass produce them. [The Pull Lever and Learn] appears to be an example.”