Hood County Texas Genealogical Society
STICK HORSES A THRIVING GRANBURY INDUSTRY
by Burl McClellan
At one time 600,000 heads of horses were shipped from Granbury each year. Heads were all there were. The rest was a long stick and it and the head were put together in the Mangold Toy factory, one of Granbury's three factories after World War II. The other two plants were garment factories employing 100 women in the two factories. According to old newspaper clippings, the toy factory employed as many as 60 people.
The Mangold Toy factory with multi-nation sales grew from a simple hobby by Mattie Landers Mangold, a Hood County native.
She began making the horses for her children after she and R.P. Mangold wed in 1918.
He was a driller on the first local exploratory oil well, the Paulson near Tolar.
The Mangolds moved to Illinois soon after they married. In 1937 they returned to Granbury.
In 1940, according to a sales brochure, she began manufacturing horses. She was selling them to stores in Fort Worth and Dallas.
Mrs. Mangold was her own sales person and materials scrounger during World War II. She searched broom factories for discarded handles that she turned into stick horses.
The heads were made of oil cloth with the details painted on by hand.
Because of the shortage of materials, she could not fill all the orders.
Lorena Ratliff of Weatherford worked 20 years for the Mangolds, 1946 to 1966. She started when it was all handwork and left when the factory closed.
She sewed together the two sides of the heads after they were cut by machine and the details silk-screened on each side.
Ratliff said her salary varied by the number of heads sewed. She usually made about $2 an hour.
A number of women sewed the heads together in their homes. Ratliff said her mother did that for several years during the war.
Cody Martin Jr., a Mangold grandson, said his uncle, J.C. Mangold, designed and built some of the machines to speed production after the war.
One was a machine that blew the cotton stuffing into the heads in one quick shot. This replaced slower hand stuffing.
The cutting machine stamped out both sides of the head in one stamp.
Wooden dowels were hand dipped in paint for the base color, Ratliff remembered. Stripes were put on as the dowel was turned.
The heads were nailed to the sticks.
All Mangold models were simple sticks. The only change, in later years, a stuffed saddle was added to the stick for the sophisticated riders.
Cody Martin Sr., husband of Jane Mangold Martin, and J. C. Mangold set up a booth each year at the New York City Toy Show. Martin worked in sales all year.
The horses were sold to major stores all over North and South America and were introduced to Australia and Puerto Rico in 1960.
Mangold also worked in the plant and took over management in the late 1950s. His father died in 1963 and his mother in 1968.
In 1960 Humble Oil, forerunner of Exxon, did a short television clip on the factory and how the horses were made.
A group of kids on stick horses opened the short show. Some of them were Cody Martin Jr., Jake Caraway, Shannon Rawls, Mindy Mangold, Cooper Mangold and Teresa Lee. Martin recently secured a copy of this show.
The toy factory started at the Mangold home at 512 N. Travis St. It grew into buildings at the back of the house.
At the height of the business, it also occupied a building on the north side of the square in Granbury, Cody recalled.
People who knew the couple said Mrs. Mangold was a very shrewd businesswoman who was very active in the business.
A sentence from her 1968 obituary in the Hood County News-Tablet says, "When her health began to fail, Mrs. Mangold discontinued her share of the business and the factory is closed now."
Before the expansion of the toy factory, R.P. Mangold was in the insurance business, served two terms as county judge and was a city councilman.
In his 1963 obituary the Hood County News-Tablet said it was his work that brought the two women's clothing factories to Granbury. The plants provided jobs in the county until the 1970s.
It is astounding that a middle-aged woman in a little unknown town could turn a hobby into a business that dominated one niche of the national and international sales for years.