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Alox Kites and Toys

I've had a little time to look at and photograph the material I received from Nancy Frier a few days ago. (See yesterday's entry.) I've begun work on a new Web article on Alox products and especially Alox kites, but I can post some early photos.

At left is the “Rocket Ship” kite design, but it's not printed from the plate I showed you yesterday. The text and the spaceship are in different colors, indicating that they had separate plates at some point for two-color printing. The kite is 30″ high and 24″ wide, the same as Hi-Flier's Playmates of the Clouds. The Rocket Ship kites were printed on four different colors of paper, in either a single color or a two-color design. The catalog number of this size of kite was #324. As best I can tell (and I will ask Nancy about this) there was no specific SKU number for a given design in a given size. Kites in this size were printed two-up on sheets of paper 30″ X 50″ and then cut and trimmed to the final diamond shape. The kite shown here is post-1964 because the Alox patent #3,330,511 is printed on it. Alox did a big business in promotional kites in this size. I have a few, and will photograph them when we get back to Colorado.

Later on Alox sold a larger kite in a form factor I don't think Hi-Flier or any other contemporary firm used: 40″ X 40″. The one I have is in plastic, with a more modern Rocket Ship design. This is size #420, and was sold in this design and an American Eagle design, in several colors of plastic and ink. Most diamond kites are a little taller than they are wide for stability (useful given that most kids have no idea how to fly kites and learn by painful experience) but bow kites in this proportion or even wider than they are tall can be flown with only a little more skill. These are called Malay kites, presumably because their design originated in Malaya.

Alox also sold barn door kites and box kites. I have a couple of the box kites and will post photos once I get back home and can (carefully) assemble them for display. (One will need some careful repair to the paper sail.) As best I know, Alox was unique in selling a plastic box kite, which was dimensionally similar to the Hi-Flier paper box kiteā€”and probably a lot more durable.

Alox sold kite string pre-wound on hardwood dowels rather than on cardboard tubes, as Hi-Flier did. Lengths included 200 feet, 250 feet and 700 feet. Early kite cord was the familiar cotton twine, but in later years Alox sold a polyester fiber cord called “American Eagle twine” that was much stronger than cotton, and similar to Hi-Flier's Megalon. Other toys in the Alox line included yo-yos of various designs (called “Flying Disks” to avoid the Duncan trademark on “yo-yo”), whistles, sound-effects whips, “carnival canes,” jacks sets, Chinese checkers boards, and many kinds of marbles. Their sales sheets are fascinating, and once I scan them I will incorporate them in my upcoming article on Alox.

Alox closed in good part because a lot of their bread-and-butter items, especially toys, began coming in from China in huge quantities in the 1980s. Anybody who gets the Oriental Trading Company catalogs will know just what I mean here. You can get plastic kites from China (I have a few, and they're in the Oriental Trading catalog every spring) but they are lousy kites, and diabolically difficult to fly. I still think that nothing has ever beaten the 36″ paper diamond kite in stability and “getting up to speed” in young, inexperienced hands. Even with a sail badly glued from newspaper, such kites went up enthusiastically and practically flew themselves. It's a bit of a tragedy that diamond kites have become rare (the ubiquitous deltas are cranky and in my opinion hugely overrated) and a serious tragedy that paper kites as a whole have become extinct.

They don't have to be. The sticks can be had at Hobby Lobby or Michael's. The newspaper is in the recycle bin. Cotton twine is at Home Depot, and Elmer's Glue will stand in for mucilege. What are you waiting for?

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