Benjamin Franklin Bain
Manufacturer of Wolverine Toys
Benjamin Franklin Bain was born in Michigan in 1863 to Joseph and Louisa Bain, Scottish immigrants. Bain had relocated to Pittsburgh by 1903 but, in an homage to his home state, he named his tool and die company Wolverine Supply and Manufacturing.
Wolverine Supply and Manufacturing began by fabricating tools and dies for a variety of other companies, one of which was The Sand Toy Company of Pittsburgh. When The Sand Toy Company could not pay for work completed, Bain sued. Upon the death of the owner of Sand Toy, the patents from that company became part of the bankruptcy settlement and were given to Bain as a form of payment. While The Sand Toy Company itself had collapsed, the pressed metal, sand-and-gravity run toys they had manufactured had remained popular. “Sandy Andy,” a miniature sand crane, had been the company’s best seller and would become the same for Wolverine.
Wolverine was soon concentrating solely on toys. Their products were distributed nationwide and were featured in the Sears and Roebuck Catalog. By 1913, Bain had purchased a three story building on Fontella Street in Manchester in order to expand operations. In 1918 Wolverine introduced a line of housekeeping toys—miniature glass washboards and washtubs, tea sets and the like-- that were popular with both children and parents.
When Benjamin Franklin Bain died in 1925 at the age of 56, his company was going strong. His wife, Dora, whom he credited as cofounder of Wolverine, inherited the business and its buildings. Their nephew, Carl Bain, served as president of the company until 1928 when he was succeeded by James Lehern. Lehern is credited with keeping Wolverine viable during the Great Depression and for overseeing the manufacture of military supplies during WWII. Spang Industries of Butler, Pennsylvania bought out Wolverine in 1962 and by 1971 all operations had moved to Arkansas.
The Wolverine Toy Company outlived its founder by almost 40 years.