Press "Enter" to skip to content


It was Monday, September 29, 1856, when the 42-year-old master pewter caster Traugott Kinkeldey arrived with his wife Frederike on the passenger ship Elida in New York. Two weeks earlier they had boarded the ship in Hamburg to try their luck in America. Until then, Kinkeldey worked as a pewter caster for plates, jugs, etc. but also as an engraver and tin figure maker in the then German city of Stettin.i

In his luggage he had an extensive inventory of moulds which he had made over the years for the casting of many different figures.

he location “Stettin” on the bases of the figures was of course wrong and had to disappear. These inscriptions were scratched out. Kinkeldey worked carefully because he did not want the boards to become thick and clumsy due to the removal of material. However,
remnants of the signatures can still be seen today. ii

The USA, as the “land of unlimited possibilities” as the saying went in Germany, should now be the place to realize his dreams, to be a successful pewter figure manufacturer.

German immigrants made up one of the largest groups during this time and created the first nationality district in New York, “Little Germany” in the southeast corner of Manhattaniii. The economic situation in Germany, and the disruption following the revolution of 1848, brought many Germans to the point where they wanted to live in a free and democratic country with better economic prospects. New York was expanding and looking for workers, especially craftsmen, in many areas.

Picture 1
Picture 2

There were probably few job offers to be able to practice his profession at that time. Apart from Peter Pia in New York, who advertised figures in later years (see the discussion by Robin Forsey in OTS Vol 46 No. 3), no manufacturers of flat pewter figures were at that time known in New York City.

Picture 3
Picture 4

In the passenger and crew list, Kinkeldey’s occupation is listed as shoemaker. It cannot be determined whether this is a misunderstanding on the part of the immigration official. Kinkeldey last lived in the
Schuhstrasse (translated: Shoestreet) in Stettin. Or it might be a deliberate misrepresentation in order to force naturalization. The first recorded entry about Kinkeldey can be found in the City Directory of 1867. There he is listed at 97 1/2 Elm Street as a “turner”. In 1871 he is recorded as a hairdresser! In 1872 he is a tanner and in 1877 as a cigar dealer – sugar (sic) dealer.iv

This makes it clear that Kinkeldey also took on various work in order to earn a living. Nevertheless, it is clear from the surviving moulds that he was still engraving special moulds in order to be able to produce attractive flat figures for the American market of a quality that could only be imported
from Germany at that time.v

As a particularly beautiful example, Picture 1 shows a Kinkeldey original box with label in the style of the German figure manufacturers of these early days, together with original figures from the American Revolutionary War. The inscription is entitled: “OUR HEROES EXTRA FINE 1770 | 1776 ZINC TOYS”. This contained 9 marching soldiers. Unfortunately, there is no reference to the manufacturer. This was not unusual at that time, as the wholesalers and retailers wanted to avoid direct orders to the maker.

The moulds for these figures are in the author’s possession. Picture 2 shows figures cast from these moulds. This also includes a drummer.

I have also purchased some other original, very old figures, obviously cast from the same moulds, but painted in a different uniform color. These are shown in Picture 3, together with a figure on horseback. This rider (possibly representing George Washington) is a new casting from another old original mould, engraved by Kinkeldey, in my possession.

Picture 4 shows an unpainted casting from the mould of George Washington. The saddle and other details are interesting. I have the impression that at least 2 different engravers worked on this mould. The saddle cloth, for example, is very rigid and engraved straight, which does not fit at all with the style of Kinkeldey’s other engravings. For example, compare the saddle cloth of this rider to the saddle cloth in Pictures 12 and 13).

Some figures were probably reengraved, because the slate moulds did not work well. This may have been due to the technical problems and the lack of experience in casting by subsequent owners. In addition, slate was either too expensive or unavailable for Kinkeldey. He made maximum use of the slate moulds for engraving, which subsequently led to further problems with casting. Some moulds must be held at an angle for pouring and the alloy, temperature, etc. must be exactly right to obtain a
complete cast of the figure.

Picture 5
Picture 6
Picture 7
Picture 8
Picture 9
Picture 10

Picture 5 shows figures for which I do not have any moulds. There seems to be a connection to the characters in the “Our Heroes” box. The similarity could be an indication that they come from the same source. However, they differ stylistically. They are probably later and cast from metal moulds, which were much easier to handle. (Peter Pia made his moulds in brass and steel!)vi

The following Pictures (6, 7 and 8) are documented casting attempts by later owners of the moulds, using different metal alloys. The attached labels describe the problems they came up against.

Picture 9 shows an example of a famous American military unit from around 1855. These are soldiers of the 7th Regiment of the New York Militia. They were nicknamed “Silk Stockings” or “Blue-Blooded” and were formed primarily from wealthy New York families.vii

Another example of a very similar figure, or re-engraving by the same engraver, is shown in Picture 10. I was able to purchase this at auction. The figure on the left was obtained in a lot, together with Ortelli figures from around 1850, with provenance from the Forbes collection. The figure on the right is by
Kinkeldey. Minimal differences can be seen in the figures shown. The different details might suggest another maker, but the figure on the right seems more common and matches the mould owned by the author. The figure on the left is also probably engraved by Kinkeldey.

Picture 11

Picture 11 shows another Parade with only contemporary, original figures. Shown is the drum major of the 7th Regiment of the New York Militia. The mold for that figure is missing from my collection.

In fact, this group also included another officer on horseback. Unfortunately, only a fragment of this figure remains, with a very early and unprofessional repair on the back of the figure. A proper restoration will take place later!

Picture 14 shows my painting table, where figures of the drum major can be seen. Unpainted on the left and painted in the middle are casts from the slate mould I have. The figure on the right is this one from Picture 11, an old original casting. This is a slightly different casting with a raised baton. The matching
illustration and description “Drum Major, Inf. Regiment, New York State Militia, 1855-1861” comes from a Richard Knötel drawing.viii The music band of the 7th NY Reg. was founded by a German emigrant, who also became the bandmaster.ix

Picture 12
Picture 13
Picture 14

The following Pictures (15 and 16) show a standard bearer and the drum major. These are 65mm scale (to eye level). They are new casts from the old moulds that represent George Washington which the author has painted in the old toy-like style, with powder paints and spirit varnish.

Picture 17 presents a Hussars Music Band. The State Militia troops were very creative with the outfitting of their uniforms, depending on the financial resources available to them. The beautiful ancient figures shown here come from the same source in the USA, but the matching moulds of the hussars are missing from my collection.

The quality and execution on Pictures 18, 19 and 20 suggest Kinkeldey as the manufacturer. The diversity of the 12 different musicians is remarkable and the resulting effort could indicate a special order from wealthy members of the regiment who felt it was important to depict all the different instruments. Unfortunately, the figures have not yet been specifically assigned to any regiment. Maybe one of our readers knows more?

Picture 15
Picture 16
Picture 17
Picture 18
Picture 19
Picture 20

Pictures 21 and 22 show two typical examples, of how a kind of Americanization took place, from moulds that were engraved in Germany, depicting German types, simply by painting the flags as the Stars and Stripes.

Traugott Kinkeldey died on January 23, 1878 in Newark, Essex, New Jersey, his widow Frederica Kinkeldey, of 92 Elm Street, being heiress. Shortly before her death in 1889, she named Hulda Malke McCarthy as her heir. Hulda Malke was born in Germany in July 1851 and married John McCarthy in the USA. Kinkeldey is last listed in the directory from 1918 at the address Newark, New Jersey 686 N 7th.x

This is the last trace of the Kinkeldey name until it reappears in the 1980s with the Reverend Lambert from Brooklyn. (see Part 1 of the Kinkeldey Mould Story in OTS Volume 47 Number 3 – Fall 2023).

Picture 21
Picture 22

We know that Peter Pia, who came from Italy and was educated in Switzerland, worked in the pewter toy business in NY from 1852. Kinkeldey did not come to New York until four years later. The illustrations in the OTS Vol. 46 No. 3, with the early figures by Pia, which have been reliably attributed, are of a simpler quality, both in terms of style and craftsmanship and artistically than those by Kinkeldey.

Its figures and the box cover shown above (Picture 1) are made in the typical German style of that time. Pia’s first advertisement is known from 1862, where he describes himself as a manufacturer and wholesaler of all kinds of tin toys. In any case, Peter Pia, or his successors in later years, made very successful, high-quality alloy or pewter toys at a very reasonable price.
This comes to light as shown by the illustration of George Washington’s presidential inauguration coach in OTS issue 47 No. 1, which comes closer to the quality of Kinkeldey. Pia was also honored for his toys at the Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893.

The Company Meisel, Lampe & Co., the owners of which came originally from Germany and who operated in NY, are known to have been importing toys from England, France and Germany from 1869, and producing all types of “Britannia” metal toys themselves. Britannia was an alloy which was famous at the time, and the name was used in advertising by Pia and others. The alloy included more antimony
which makes the metal harder. Later, in an advertisement in 1872, they described themselves as the only manufacturer of tin toys, which given all the evidence discussed here is rather doubtful!

In summary, one can probably assume that Traugott Kinkeldey engraved figures for the American market for a few years from 1856, perhaps even until his death in 1878. He supplemented and adapted existing series for this. The original box which came from the same original source, with original old painted figures suggests that this is an original Kinkeldey box and confirms that figures were offered painted. Based on the current level of information, one can only make assumptions about the period and extent of production by Kinkeldey. It is also not possible to say with certainty whether a competing
company that was active on a larger scale also worked with the same moulds or whether there was a later collaboration. Much remains in the dark for the time being.

The author would be very happy to receive any information that could help with these open questions. Please contact [email protected]

New findings will be posted on the website.

i The name of the Town Stettin is now Szcecin,since 1945, part of Poland.
ii Thanks to Florian Wilcke, expert for early slate moulds for this thought.
iii In the years from 1820 to 1880 the most emigrants came from Germany (3,100,000)
vOTS Vol 46 No. 3 Peter Pia, Incorporated: The Formative Years Part One: 1850-1866 with pictures of the Flat-Figures Production.
viOTS Vol. 47 No. 1 Page 59 Peter F. Pia 1867-1918 and York/Pia_New_York.html#Top
viiAdvice from Martin Schabenstiel and Roger Garfield.
viiiQuelle: 7th Regiment, New York State Militia, Drum Major, 1855-1861
ixFreundliche Hinweise von Martin Schabenstiel and Peter Clark

Copyright 2024