History of the Soldier
Plates or in–the–round, of tin, lead, or sawdust, for adults or children, all toy soldiers.
Although some archaeological finds can be considered ancestors of our toy soldiers, the beginning of an understandably well documented lineage, in any case, leads to the reign of Louis XIV, at a time when the news of particular attention to real toy soldiers multiplies.
In the 18th century a flourishing trade developed in flat tin soldier figurines produced in Nuremberg, Furth, Strasbourg, and Aarau appear throughout the century in German-speaking countries. Especially the flat tin soldiers are at the centre of the development of toy soldiers, albeit with less diffusion are the lead semi-round or all-round figurines.
Other types are developing at the same time besides those of lead semi-flats.
The Great War marked a period of deep crisis for the flat toy soldiers which began to face together with the “all-round” English and French, those in “pasta”.
In this period research had also begun on raw materials other than lead that had already been developed in France and Austria in the second half of the nineteenth century: the Viennese Pfeiffer first achieved appreciable results using a mixture of paper-mâché, sawdust and fish–glue, while in Germany toy soldiers were made with a mixture of kaolin, casein glue and sawdust (Elastolin/Lineol).
It was precisely these toy soldiers and their means that constituted a significant model for Italian production which, divided into many artisanal brands and factories, had switched to the use of dough based on glue, plaster, and papier–mâché in the 1920s. Among these companies we recall Xiloplasto and the Società Anonima Lavorazione Plastiche e Affini (S.A.L.P.A), destined to succumb to the success of plastic and the workshop founded by Francesco Antonini in Rome – then in a decentralized area with respect to Milan and Lucchesia – which first began to produce “semi flat” with German molds from 1910, and then moved on to the “full round”. Since then, the Antonini brand has continued to produce splendid all-round lead toy soldiers in 54 mm, with an exceptional uniform rigor. This has proven to be a most prestigious heir in the wake of the high-quality French and German production, precisely because of the choice offered of the already painted pieces.
A great revolution in the world of toy soldiers was established from the 1960s by the introduction of plastic which radically changed the market.
The upheaval produced in modelling by the introduction of plastic (creating a mass phenomenon through assembly boxes) later extended to the production of toy soldiers.
Through the Airfix boxes with forty-four pieces of 20 mm (then there were also 54 mm. offered in boxes of a reasonable number of pieces) the modelers had the opportunity to “animate” the means, to create “scenes” and dioramas and finally to approach simulation games.
The 1970s brought further changes to the world of toy soldiers thanks also, to three-dimensional simulation games (or war games).
These changed the centre of gravity of the “audience”, moving further and further away from being centred on the child to reach adolescents and adults. The separation of the soldier as a toy from the soldier as a model has now taken place.