NotesThe toy car was made by Carette & Co (Carette & cie) established in 1886 by a Frenchman, George Carette (1861-1954) and based in Nuremberg, Germany. It was set up with the backing of a Bavarian hop merchant and the Hopf brewery and initially supplied toys to another toy manufacturer, the Bing brothers, who were also helpful in establishing the Carette firm.
Carette made toy soldiers, weapons, gunboats and military vehicles, for an international market changing the flag from the Union Jack to the German flag when necessary. At the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, the company introduced one of the earliest toy electric trams. The firm went on to excel at tin toy production with both live-steam and spring-driven locomotives as well as very large and expensive toy stationary steam engines.
Carette worked on developing the process of lithography on metal which was introduced in 1895 and expanded production to include boats, cars, and magic lanterns. Carette's business partner, Paul Josephtal, encouraged contracts with the English firm Bassett-Lowke for toy railway rolling stock produced in British railway liveries. Carette's toy locomotives were also made for the American market.
Early Carette toy cars from about 1905 were made of brightly-lithographed lightweight tinplate sometimes with distinctive gold line work. Other features include concave brackets connecting the running board to the sub frame, simply pressed one-piece wheels, a painted chauffeur and a coal-scuttle shaped bonnet. These came in three sizes 7½ inches (19cm), 10½ inches (26.5 cm) and 13 inches (33 cm). They were painted and varnished or 'highly japanned' as the catalogues of the day described the finish.
The most famous of Carette's toy vehicles is the four-window limousine of 1911 with bevelled glass windscreen. It came in three sizes, 8½ inches (22 cm), 12½ inches (32 cm) and 16 inches (40 cm). These were very expensive, large floor toys and came in about four versions within each size with the most expensive being about four times the cost of the cheapest. These were either lithographed or for the most expensive, hand-enamelled, to a high standard of finish, together with an optional footman. Other features in the middle and upper range included glass windows, a chauffeur, opening doors and a roof rack made of cast brackets. White rubber tyres and artillery wheels featured on the most expensive model while others were of a one-piece metal pressing. The colours included maroon, red, green and cream.
At the beginning of the First World War Carette was still a French citizen. Despite having a German wife he had to flee Germany in 1914. They lived just outside Paris and Carette died in 1954 at the age of 93. Meanwhile, the firm continued in Germany under Josephtal but closed in 1917 after he was summonsed to enlist as a captain. The toy making pressings were taken over by another toy manufacturer, Karl Bub. Bub had been making toys for many years but only began making toy cars from about 1912. The factory buildings were said to have been taken over by a subsidiary of the Bing company.
Carette's original trademark was a winged figure, accompanied by the words 'Jouets fins' - Fine toys - Feine Spielwaren', but this was changed in 1895 to the company's initials 'GCCoN' (Georges Carette Company Nuremberg) applied onto the tin plate. From 1910 until the cessation of production in 1917 the trademark was a cog wheel with a steam engine governor and the initials 'GCCo N'. This is indicative of the firm's toy stationary steam engines.
Miller, Judith and Martin (eds), "Miller's Toys & Games Antiques Checklist", Reed International Books Limited, London, 1995.
Richardson, Mike and Sue, "wheels:Christie's Presents the Magical World of Automotive Toys", Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1999.