Green River Star -

By Amanda Benson
Sweetwater County Historical Museum 

Museum features toy plane


It’s the holiday season, and many people are buying toys for the children in their lives. For December’s Artifact of the Month, the Sweetwater County Museum is featuring a toy airplane from the 1930s, which was donated to the Museum by Robert. N. Malonek. This toy airplane is the NX-271 model from a collaboration between Little Jim Playthings and J.C. Penney. It is a tri-motor model airplane and is made from pressed steel.

The popularity of airplanes soared after Charles Lindbergh’s famous transatlantic flight in 1927, and also with the increase in aircraft technology after World War I. Despite the Great Depression, toy sales in the United States did not decline as severely as one would think. Toy companies had to become creative and find ways to make toys with cheaper materials and cheaper manufacturing processes.

Pressed steel was cheap and easy to manufacture, so it was a perfect medium for many toys, such as this airplane, as well as trains and cars. However, toy airplanes and similar toys were more common in the 1920s and 1930s. This is because of World War II, where steel was a high commodity and every scrap was used for the war effort.

In order to increase toy sales, manufacturers worked with household names and celebrities to boost product sales. Little Jim Playthings partnered with the increasingly popular store, J.C. Penney. As many Wyomingites are familiar, the first store opened in nearby Kemmerer in 1902 and shortly after opened a second storefront in downtown Rock Springs.

The J.C. Penney store in Rock Springs remained opened for 113 years, including a change of location to White Mountain Mall.

However, earlier this year in April, J.C. Penney closed its doors and is no longer in Rock Springs. The original storefront in downtown Rock Springs is now home to Willow Ridge Crafts.

Even though the doors of J.C. Penney are closed, that does not mean you can’t enjoy a little bit of its rich history. This toy airplane not only holds stories of a time of economic depression, but also of a store with a deep connection to the Sweetwater County community.

We would love for you to come in and see this amazing toy. The museum is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.


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