Little soldiers

The toy soldiers are figurines military for play, manufactured at different times, of paper, lead, tin, steel, composition materials, aluminum or plastic.

According to the periods and the manufacturers there are great constants in the represented armies (Napoleonic army, colonial wars, first and second world war, war of secession).

Historical Introduction


The first little soldiers were born in the late eighteenth th century tradition of sculptors 1 in France and Germany mainly. During the xix th century, many German manufacturers, mainly in the region of Nuremberg, started producing tin soldiers dishes. It was complicated to mold figurines in the round because the tin and the pure lead are too malleable which made the soldiers fragile. It is only during the last third of the xix th century that French manufacturers like CBG 2 and German as Heyde 3had the idea of ​​using a lead alloy of antimony and bismuth, already known in ballistics, to make solid lead subjects whose rigidity was sufficient to allow repeated manipulations. In 1893, an English entrepreneur, William Britain 4 , developed a technique that made hollow cast figurines , which significantly reduced costs and made the little soldier extremely popular.

The inter-war period

After the conflict, the major companies producing lead soldiers developed their production. Britain continued to produce hollow lead toys, imitated by dozens of manufacturers around the world. Heyde and CBG were offering more and more catalogs while others were experimenting with new materials. The German Hausser 5 had developed in 1904, a manufacturing process from a material formed of sawdust, glue and kaolin. His Komposition Figuren could be manufactured at very low prices. During the twenties and thirties his firm Elastolin, soon joined by Lineol 6and many other imitators flooded the world market with his figurines representing German troops as well as the main armies of the world. The process inspired foreign companies like Confaloniere-Chialu 7 in Italy or Durso 8 in Belgium.

In France, the Quirin company launched a production of aluminum soldiers mainly representing the French armies.

The triumph of plastic

It was immediately after the war that plastics spread in industry. A forerunner of Hong Kong named Zang created in the 1940s a series of plastic figurines of a very high quality. Britain, who was always on the lookout for novelty, signed an agreement with him and absorbed his company in the early 1950s, creating his subsidiary Herald 9 . This allowed Britain to retain leadership in global figurine production. In 1966, the production of hollow lead soldiers was stopped.

At the same time, French companies had embarked on plastic production. Jim 10 and Clairet marketed very good quality figurines during the 1950s and 60s, but it was above all the firm Starlux 11 , created by Pierre Beffara, which managed to gain a foothold on the European markets thanks to quality and diversity. of his productions.

The soldiers in paper

The little paper soldiers are born in the wake of the tradition of the image makers. In France, it is Epinal and Strasbourg that the art of paper soldier developed during the xix th century . Often printed in cutting boards, they were sometimes glued on cardboard .

The plastic soldiers

Plastic soldiers are equipped with a variety of weapons, mostly from the Second World War to the Vietnam War. These include rifles, machine guns, machine guns, sniper rifles, pistols, hand grenades, flamethrowers, mortars and bazookas. It can also be welded radio, draggers, and armed with bayonets men. Their helmets are the oldest “pot” style that were given to American soldiers from the mid-to-late twentieth century. Plastic soldiers are sometimes packed with additional equipment, including tanks (often on the basis of the M48 Patton), jeeps, armed hovercraft, artillery, helicopters, jet planes and fortifications. Their vehicles are usually made on a smaller scale, to save on production and packaging costs. Some soldiers have land mines from the browser.

Size and format

Generally, the lead soldiers measure 54mm or 90mm, but some go up to 180mm.

To measure a soldier, we go from the terrace (the base) to the eyes of the figurine.

Notes and references

  1. ↑ ( in ) Ryan, Edward, Paper Soldiers, the Illustrated History of Printed Paper Armies from the 18th, 19th & 20th Centuries , London, New Cavendish Books,, 496 p. ( ISBN  9780904568967 )
  2. ↑ Blondieau, Christian, Tin soldiers & civilians figurines: CBG collection , Paris, Le Kepi red,, 208 p. ( ISBN  2-9507401 (edited wrong) instruction BNF o FRBNF36153571 , read online  [ archive ] )
  3. ↑ ( de ) Grein, Markus, Mit Heyde Figuren um die Welt , Krannich, Egon, Dr .; Auflage,, 119 p. ( ISBN  3933124166 )
  4. ↑ ( in ) Opie, James, The Great Book of Britains: 100 Years of Britains Toy Soldiers 1893-1993 , London, New Cavendish Books,, 640 p. ( ISBN 1872727328 )
  5. ↑ ( in ) Polaine, Reggie, War Toys: The Story of Hauser Elastolin , London, New Cavendish Books,, 156 p. ( ISBN  0904568172 )
  6. ↑ ( in More ) Fontana, Dennis, The War Toys 2: Kriegsspielzeug: The Story of / Die Geschichte von Lineol , London, New Cavendish Books,, 192 p. (ISBN  0904568296 )
  7. ↑ ( it ) Paoletti, Franco and Roveri, Giuseppe, Confalonieri Chialù. Soldatini Giocattolo in Cartaçaa 1934-1967 , Masso delle Fate,183 p. ( ISBN 8887305684 )
  8. ↑ Herman, Paul, The Golden Book of toys made in Belgium , Brussels, Glénat,, 208 p. ( ISBN  2871762147 )
  9. ↑ ( in ) Cole, Peter, An Unauthorized History of Britains Herald & Plastic Figures … , USA, Plastic Warrior, 200 p. ( ISBN  1900898047 )
  10. ↑ Thomas, Alain, Cyrnos and Jim , Bertrix, Chez l’auteur,, 136 p.
  11. ↑ Thomas, Alain and Meimoun, Jerry, Starlux: History of the French giant of plastic figurines – Reissue of volumes 1 and 2 , Bertrix, In the authors,, 256 p. ( read online  [ archive ] )

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