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Nylint Tool & Manufacturing Company

Bernard Klint worked at J. L. Clark and Company as a tool & die maker when he obtained the patents  for two kitchen utensils, a cheese slicer and a flour sifter. He borrowed money from his uncle David Nyberg who was treasurer at Highland Lumber and Fuel Company, and purchased tooling from the estate of another kitchenware manufacturer. Bernard, or Barney as he was called set up shop in the basement of an apartment building at 1661 Fifth Avenue in Rockford in 1937. The name of the company would be Ny-Lint, a combination of the Klint and Nyberg names. He would manufacture the kitchenware in his off hours and his wife Grace would visit fairs, picnics and stores peddling the kitchenware.

Nylint Tool and Manufacturing Company moved into a larger machine shop in 40 x 50 feet in size in 1940 located at 1823 Sixteenth Avenue where they would remain producing kitchenware and parts for other manufacturing concerns. In 1941 Nylint's production shifted to supporting the war efforts of our country by producing anti-aircraft magazines and torpedo-related components for the Federal government. In 1942 a fire struck the Nylint factory but the company quickly rebounded and continued with war time production. Nylint produced war-related products until 1945.

After the war the contract work increased with NyLint making parts for National Lock, Sundstrand, Woodward Governor Company and Amerock Hardware companies. Nylint conducted an extensive study in late 1945 after the war and decided they would enter the toy manufacturing business making steel stamped toys. Bernard soon hired Carl Swenson, a local resident who invented a wind-up toy car for research and development. NyLint became a popular toy manufacturer due to the “Amazing Car's” impressive wind-up capabilities and realism in detail after its debut in 1946. The wind up car was 13¾ inches long, 5 inches wide and 5 inches tall and weighed 2½ pounds. Nylint would continue to make wind-up toys until the early 1950's as a sideline to the contract work. Competition was abundant with companies such as Tonka, Buddy-L, Structo, Smith-Miller, Marx, and Wyandotte.

Branching out from cars in the 1950's, Nylint began to make toys realistically modeled after construction equipment many of which carried the actual name. Consent was obtained from the manufacturer of the full size vehicles to be copied before the company started producing the scale models and the manufacturers were generally cooperative. A research department suggested new models for the following year. The contract work became less and less and was eventually phased out in the early 60's as the company turned its attention to only manufacturing its now popular line of toys.

The factory would undergo several expansions over the years including one in 1963 that expanded manufacturing facilities 40 per cent. Before construction could start the formal vote of the boards of directors of the Milwaukee Road and Illinois Central Railroad and the Illinois Commerce Commission were required. A switch track of The Milwaukee Road was abandoned and permission obtained for the railroad to use an adjacent Illinois Central track for about a quarter of a mile in each direction from the plant. Two blocks of track were torn .up for the 20,000 square foot addition. At this time parking was also expanded between 17th and 18th Avenues with a lot 100 by 250 feet in size.

In 1964 Ragner E. Klint who was vice president of Nylint was also a board member of the new Colonial Bank of Rockford at Colonial Village Mall. Bernard Klint invented the process of smooth rolled metal edges on the company's toy cars and trucks which were designed to the highest safety standards. From original concept and engineering through the very final phases of inspection and packing Nylint emphasized the importance of built in values. Nylint toys offered appealing realism because they were accurate scale models of actual in use equipment. They had built in play attraction because of operational parts that move and do things. Each scale model was 1/16th actual size and the Nylint line was known as "America's Finest Steel Toys". Heavy gauge steel, the same as used in car and truck production was used by Nylint in constructing its toy line of model truck and construction equipment. The company would use 40,000 to 50,000 pounds of steel a day.

The company underwent many changes during 1968 including a new a new name and expansion. The name of the company was changed to Nylint Corporation. Previous to this it had been the Nylint Tool and Manufacturing Company. A new 25,000 square foot two story addition to the existing plant was built which added more office and manufacturing space including a revamped shipping and receiving area and a large mezzanine for employee facilities. The entire building was air conditioned.  Along with a new two-story addition, the entire portion of the existing building fronting on 16th Avenue was renovated to blend architecturally with the modern new structure. Sepia blend brick, architectural iron canopies and spandrels, and precast concrete wall panels were used for the exterior.

Besides now having a plant with 90,000 square feet of floor space, the Nylint Corporation also rented 100,000 additional square feet of space for storage purposes.  At this time the company was operating five assembly lines turning out 43 different scale models of trucks and construction equipment. The name Nylint and Rockford, Illinois were stamped on every toy and thus the Rockford name was carried far and wide across the world. Sperry & Hutchinson Company, better known for their S&H Green Stamps added Nylint Toys to their catalog in 1968, the “Ideabook” and provided the items as premiums to Green Stamp savers. Sperry and Hutchinson distributed more than 30 million full color catalogs through 750 redemption centers.

Nylint was also well known for their generosity supporting such organizations as the Rockford boys and Girls Club, the Experimental Aircraft Association Fly-In and Convention and in 1969 Nylint started an initiative to distribute toys for needy children and having them distributed through the Rockford Police Department. Other merchants and organizations soon joined in the effort. In 1976 this became the Empty Stocking Club and a total of 4,004 children received toys in Rockford and Winnebago County. Nylint was the sponsor of the high school basketball Holiday Classic Tournament; by 1995 the name had been changed to the Nylint Toys Classic boys’ basketball tournament that featured NIC-9 teams. All games were played at Rock Valley College and in 1999 Benjamin and his Heavenly Playmates Against SIDS Foundation was established by Nylint Toys and organized fund raisers for research to stop Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

In 1971 Nylint would win the Sears Roebuck and Company “Symbol of Excellence” award; the award was given to companies based primarily on product excellence, but also recognized superior delivery performance and initiative in developing new and improved merchandise. The company would continue to receive this award for at least the next four consecutive years.

Photo courtesy of Scott Dunbar

Nylint sponsored race cars after Ted Klint who became interested in racing and the first car was a Porsche Carrera. Ted was the rookie of the year in 1976 in the Blackhawk Valley Region racing. They would continue to sponsor various drivers and cars throughout the years. All was not rosey for Nylint in 1984 however when the City of Rockford started an investigation into the company that stemmed from the complaints of neighborhood residents who said that excessive pounding and vibrations from machines at Nylint had damaged their homes and area streets which lowered the area's property values. Residents believed that the company, which was in an area zoned for light industry, was violating zoning laws because several of its presses exceeded a 20-ton limit set by city ordinance. According to city records, the plant uses more than 20 presses that apply from 20 to 300 tons of pressure. After city officials inspected the houses, streets and side-walks on 16th Avenue for signs of damage caused by vibrations caused by the manufacturer they found nothing beyond normal wear. They also inspected Nylint's plant and found no foundation problems or cracks there. City officials, including two aldermen, came to the company to apologize after the inspections. Gradually Nylint had bought the homes closest to it and tore them down for such things as parking lots and plant expansion. Yet as late as 1992 some residents were still trying to get a settlement from Nylint to no avail.

In 1993 Nylint saw a change coming and started producing plastic toys based on books by the Duchess of York. Budgie the Little Helicopter, and a cast of half a dozen supporting characters created by the Duchess of York. Nylint is among the first US. Licensees to make products based on the adventures of Budgie the Little Helicopter books for preschoolers, written by the former Sarah Ferguson, also known as Fergie. Nylint would also make toy products based on Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends although the steel toys remained its primary product. Nylint also won the creativity award in the WROK/WZOK Rock River Raft Race in 1993 for its helicopter entry in the competition.

Photo coutesy of Jan Arnold Thorpe

The picture above shows Barney Klint, on the left, with his brother Ragner “Rags” Klint checking out the latest Nylint toy produced by their company - The Michigan Shovel circa 1955.

. The picture shows Barney Klint, on the left, with his brother Ragner “Rags” Klint checking out the latest Nylint toy produced by their company - The Michigan Shovel circa 1955.

In 1996 the Nylint Corporation would celebrate 50 years in the toy making business but also lost their founder Bernard Klint who passed away on September 2; his wife Grace passed a year earlier on October 24, 1995. The company was left in the hands of their sons. Nylint continued to make pressed-steel toys. Meanwhile most of the other popular pressed-steel producers of toys had gone out of business, were bought out by larger companies, or entered into other toy-making ventures.  At Nylint's manufacturing peak in the 1970's it is said that as many as 400 people were employed by Nylint. By 2000 it seems that computer games replaced old fashion imagination and playing with steel toys made by Nylint. Sadly by 2001 Nylint filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to declining sales. In April 2001, Funrise Toy Corporation of California bought Nylint Corporation securing the rights to the Nylint branding. All of Nylint’s inventory and current toy molds were moved from Rockford to Funrise ending Nylint's manufacture of toys after over 60 years as an independently owned family business. In June 2001, all remaining Nylint assets including many vintage toys, some metalworking machines, vehicles and office equipment were sold at auction.

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