Skip to content
Exhibitions Playing Cowboy

Action Figures

Casting toy human figures in metal—usually lead–in large numbers dates from the middle 1700s.

Toy figures cut from tin with lithographed or painted clothing and features dates from the 19th century. After World War II toy companies used plastic injection molding to mass produce figures of humans and animals by the millions, usually in a single color. They made these figures in multiple sizes to be interchangeable with different fort, town, ranch, or hacienda play sets. Some toy companies used highly skilled sculptors to design molds for figures recognizable from TV Westerns. Figures with movable body parts—but made from plastics that often disintegrated over time—found their way into “playing cowboy” with the Johnny West series, introduced in 1964.

Stay Connected

Sign up for our e-newsletter