Peter Mar Toy Wagon

The Peter-Mar Toy Company

When you were growing up, was your favorite toy fancy? Simple? Homemade? Mass produced? Maybe it was a part of Iowa history. 

In 1941, Ralph Lohr and his partner C.C. Hakes started manufacturing wooden household items in Muscatine, Iowa. When lumber was limited to government contracts during World War II, the partners faced the choice of closing the business or starting another product line. The duo decided to use scrap lumber, much of it from the nearby Mississippi River, to create wooden toys. Thus, Peter-Mar Toys was born.

The Peter-Mar name came from a combination of the names of Ralph Lohr’s son Peter and C.C. Hakes’ daughter Mary. At first, the company made military-style jeeps and guns. They expanded their toy line to include different color tractors, including a farm cart and wagon that would represent agricultural work in the Midwest. In 1945, Peter-Mar increased production with other toys like a trolley, ferris wheel and a Noah’s Ark. 

At its peak, the company employed nearly fifty workers. About 85 percent of the toys produced were shipped to major cities nationwide. The Peter-Mar products were known for their craftsmanship and durability, and the quality of the toys has stood the test of time. 

But, its production was short lived. Peter-Mar Toys closed after World War II. With other materials becoming more available again, it was difficult for a company founded on wooden toys to survive.

Peter-Mar Toy Wagon
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Peter-Mar Toy Tractor
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Credit:

Supported in part by The State Historical Society of Iowa Historical Resource Development Program; the Liberty Fund at Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines; and by Margaret J. Gurau of Ames to support history, arts and culture and nature programming for all Iowans.