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Vintage Model Aircraft | Vintage Toys | The end of an era of an American Icon

Updated on April 16, 2013
Stanzel Shark P-60
Stanzel Shark P-60
The Original Stanzel factory is open to the public
The Original Stanzel factory is open to the public
Patented mono line control system
Patented mono line control system
Hand held battery control
Hand held battery control
Mock up of the Stanzel Brothers at work on a new product
Mock up of the Stanzel Brothers at work on a new product
Mock up of the office in the Stanzel factory
Mock up of the office in the Stanzel factory
Stanzel Super G Shark
Stanzel Super G Shark

The Stanzel Brothers invented and patented and built some of the most popular early gas and battery powered model aircraft.

It’s a remarkable American Heritage success story where two brothers were able to dream big and make a big impact on the nation and around the world.

Starting out in a small clap board one office factory located in Schulenburg Texas. The Stanzel Model Aircraft Company would dominate the model aircraft business for decades to come.

It was 1930 and the timing couldn't be better to start a model aircraft manufacturing company.

Charles Lindberg had just completed his solo flight across the Atlantic a few years earlier.

Douglas introduced their 12 passenger twin engine plane in 1933 which quickly was used to begin commercial air transportation.

Airplanes were on ever boys mind. These mystery flying machines soaring through the skies like birds inspired all types of contraptions and make believe cockpits to be built and played out in the back yards all across the country.

The war rhetoric was beginning to build and the images of fighter planes escalated the intrigue to learn more about how planes were built and flown.

Comic strip characters also played a role in the dream works of young boys by making bigger than life space heroes.

The Stanzel brothers, Joe and Victor were able to build model planes and spaceships that not only could be used to play with, they actually would fly.

Their success was built largely off being able to design and patented not only the control mechanism but the actual model aircraft plans as well.

While many young entrepreneurs would invent an idea or product and move forward with it, Victor Stanzel went to the time and expense to actually patented his designs.

These patents would later protect and make Stanzel the dominate player in the model aircraft industry.

With a targeted self education through correspondence courses Victor Stanzel learned mechanical drawing and tool making, both of which would become invaluable in submitting patents and drawing plans for the model kits.

Probably best known in model aviation for their Tiger Shark series and Texas Ranger gas powered airplane kits.

Stanzel used several different control line systems but incorporated their patented two line hand held control device in most of their model planes

This control device allowed the operator to stand in the center and spin with the planes while controlling the back elevator to land and take off.

The elevator are the two vertical flaps that are adjacent to the tail.

The operator would pull back or push forward on the hand held stick as they were spinning with the aircraft.

The stick was attached to the airplane using fishing line and swivels.

The operator could control the elevator mechanism from the ground allowing the plane to take off and climb or dive for stunts or landing.

This design became very popular worldwide and would be used as the primary control for most all the Stanzel gas powered airplanes.

Over the years the Stanzel brothers would replicate to scale some of the most popular aircraft used in the different wars including replica of jets and even helicopters..

They also built several large scale models that were mostly used to promote the Stanzel company on road trips across the country.

The Stanzel brothers also had a deep interest in amusement park rides and developed and patented a flying plane ride and a rocket ride inspired by the Buck Rogers comic strip

The rocket ship ride was featured in the 1936 Texas Centennial celebration and then exhibited in the New York World’s Fair.

A third amusement park ride also was patented by the Stanzel brothers.

The Stanzel brothers for whatever the reason just couldn't foresee or get out ahead of the radio control age.

They also stopped making gas powered model kits in 1959, in favor of ready to fly planes and smaller battery powered flying products.

The gas powered kits were very popular with hobbyist who enjoyed building and flying these model planes.

They stayed tried and true to their mono line attached controls and even when they went to battery powered in 1959.

The operator would still stand in the middle and allow the flying plane and object to fly around them in circles.

If they just could have jumped into the radio control world as they initially did with their patented manual control systems, the Stanzel Model Aircraft Company could still be a dominate player in the model aircraft market today.

As the pressure from cheaper imported toys entered the competition the Stanzel brothers also moved into the cheaper blow mold production of products.

The company did stay in business for a wonderful 71 years building some of the most widely known and popular toys and model aircraft ever to be built even up into the new millennium. The company closed their doors in 2001.

The original site has a must see museum, which includes displays of all their works, the Stanzel history, as well as the original factory and the boy hood home.

When the business closed they still had a large inventory which seemed to indicate that this once very popular American built business Icon slowly lost its glory and was only trying to hold on for their employees.

Even up to this writing in 2013 over 10 years since the factory closed, several of the Stanzel toys and kits can still be purchased at the museum.

The nostalgic boxes and toys should be popular collector items as they are still boxed and appear just as they did in the 1900s

For more information about the museum you can click on this link.

Pictures are courtesy of Cottage Craft Works .com who still feature back to basics old fashioned products online.


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