Perhaps the wildest action of all the Lehman toys, said to resemble Ernest Paul Lehman’s temperament (founder of the company), “Balky Mule” was first manufactured in 1897 in Berlin (Brandenburg), and had a multi decade run; this example is from around 1909 (see image with markings to the rear of the carriage). The toy is catalogued as “EPL #425” and documented on page 59 and 60 of the book “Lehman Toys” by Jurgen & Marianne Cieslik, published in 1982.
To operate the toy; wind up the attached clockwork key on the underneath of the carriage and place the toy on the floor. Do not over-wind and be gentle, as the toy is aggressive and over 100 years old. The toy will go backwards and forward, and the clown will pop up and down as the cart goes in several different directions across the floor until it winds down (see video accompanying the listing for guidance).
The toy is found broken and/or inoperable, more often than not, because of the rough action, and typical abuse by children (after all, it was a toy).
This example is in very nice original condition and works well. The lithography and hand paint is bright and original with no touch up or repaint. The hand paint is; flesh tones to the face of the clown, red trousers, orange hair, and grey paint to the seat of the carriage. The clothing to the clown figure is still intact and all original. The lithography to the wheels features brightly colored clowns and a German marking logo. What is really unusual is the fact that the donkey still has all four of its loosely attached original legs, considering the aggressive action of the toy. The metal on the donkey is actually treated with “fabric like” paint, to simulate fur.
All in all this is a really cool toy and a “must have” for the collector of tin toys, or someone who simply wants a wonderful example of an early, “turn of the century” iconic wind up toy.
Provenance: Recently acquired from a prominent toy collection in Los Angeles, California
Dimensions: 7 1/2″ long x 3″ wide x 5″ high
Note: After 40 plus years of dealing and collecting toys, I am justly qualified to guarantee and present the authenticity of antique and vintage toys and children’s playthings; important considering the fakes and reproductions in the marketplace