Bachmann Trains; America’s Oldest Toy Company

I once visited a retail store that was founded in 1860.  It was amazing to me that, after 155 years, they were still in business.  How did they do it and particularly after such a bad year to begin anything.   I like to imagine the founder, walking around the store with his fist in the air and yelling:  “A Civil War!?  We are so screwed!”  Or however they put it that time. 

Never the less, that store made it through and was still in operation as of a few years ago.  So, what allows a business to exist for so long?

We can grasp a bit of that secret by considering Bachmann Industries, the maker of Bachman Trains.  Bachmann is more than 155 years old.  In fact, founded in 1833 Bachmann has been in business for a staggering 177 years.

How did they do it?  It appears to me that they did it by having an ability and willingness to adjust to macro-conditions and reinvent themselves over and over


19th Century Combs

 Consider the following:

  • The company’s original business was in creating Spanish combs out of ivory, horn and tortoise shell for wealthy Southerners.  There were not too many wealthy Southerners after the Civil War so Bachmann had to make some changes.  What did they do? With Southern Belles out of the picture they began turning out umbrella handles.  This may well be the defining moment in the company’s history as it was to presage other adaptions to circumstances, some more extreme.
  • In 1912, Bachmann began making celluloid eyeglass frames and then went on to making prescription glasses and sunglasses.

  • During World War II Bachman supplied the military with, among other things, submarine battery caps.
  • In the Post-War era, Bachmann yet again re-imagined itself and moved on from submarine battery caps to produce plastic models and trains. 

Trains are how we know Bachmann today but in the year 2100 who knows what they may be making; battery caps for asteroid blasters?

Whatever they are making, somehow I get the feeling there will still be a Bachmann far into the future.


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