Balsa Wood Planes Make for Great Summer Fun

Retro Staff |  Comments
Balsa JetFire Wood Glider

Balsa JetFire Wood Glider

Balsa wood airplanes have been keeping kids – and now, adults – busy for more than 80 years.

There’s an interesting story behind the creation of Guillow balsa wood airplanes. It began in 1926, when former WWI US Navy aviator Paul K. Guillow started a company out of his barn. Guillow’s experience and interest in aviation led to Nu Craft Toys introducing of a line of military airplane models made out of balsa wood.

Airplanes were still very much a novelty at the time. The first official aircraft flight by Orville and Wilbur Wright had occurred in 1903, only 23 years prior. But in 1927, when Charles A. Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris, the nation’s interest in aviation soared. As a result, Guillow’s model airplane kits were very much in demand, making it necessary to move his toy company to a larger place, and again to an even larger one in 1933, to the present location at 40 New Salem Street in Wakefield, Massachusetts. The name of the company was changed to Paul K. Guillow, Inc.

Balsa Wood Sky Streak Airplane

Balsa Wood Sky Streak Airplane

The first product line of balsa wood airplanes was of WWI biplane fighters that sold very well right up to the mid 1940s.

During WWII, balsa wood was harder to get since it was being used to produce life rafts and life jackets for the war. Model builders then were forced to use paper cardboard and pine, though not always successfully.

Post war, plastic models became popular, which caused a decline in the simpler planes. But the 1950s saw a renewed interest in balsa wood airplanes – an interest that continues today.

Over the decades, Guillow’s company produced many different models. Among the most popular:

Today, these classic toys are used by millions of kids and adults, and they make for great summer fun. For races, see who can make the plane go the fastest or the highest.

Balsa wood airplanes are also great stocking stuffers and party favors.

How about you? Do you remember these classic retro toys? When’s the last time you sent a balsa airplane into the sky?

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Last updated: Jul 14, 2008
Filed under: Classic Toys Tagged with: Classic Toys, toys & games