Mastercrafters Horse Clocks

Text & Photographs Copyright Mike Jackson 1998-2013

Possibly the most interesting and most controversial topic on collecting Hartland Horse and Riders revolves around the clocks Hartland Plastics made for Mastercrafters Clock and Radio. Numerous stories have been told on how and when everything happened. After several years of research, a small group of Hartland and Breyer collectors now believe to have cleaned up all the mess.
Actually, the story line is a simple one. Here's my version:
Sometime in 1949, or possibly a little before, Hartland Plastics, Inc. contracted with Mastercrafters Clock and Radio for a production run of a distinctive horse clock. The horse straddled over a Sessions clock, as seen above. Hartland produced the decorative mantle base, plus a horse designed to face left on the base along with a saddle. The deal with Mastercrafters was not an extended one. Before the end of their production run, Hartland also created a new style of horse which would face right, with the mane on the right side. Some of those style clocks show up, though much less common than their first version. Besides the dark brown bases, Hartland also produced some light marble colored bases. Information on this topic is quite limited. There is a possibility Hartland produced and sold their horse as an individual element before and during their contract with Mastercrafters. When the contract was completed, Hartland used their horse molds to sell individual stand alone horses. Sometime in late 1953, they began producing riders to accompany the large horse.
Until Recently, collectors were told the horse with the mane on the left was a Breyer horse, while the horses with the mane on the right were Hartlands. As of early 2005, it appears this is still the prevailing train of thought, especially within the Breyer community. Our research concludes the story line has been incorrect all along and will probably take a few years to filter throughout both groups of collectors.
The rest of this page explains how our little research group came to make those conclusions, plus explain how to really tell a Breyer Western Horse from a Hartland Large Early "Champ".
 
Supporting Documentation and Clues
It has taken several years to locate solid information about this topic. Most of what we have had to work with in the past has been very sketchy...often recalled and passed on by people that didn't actually witness the steps.
Victor Horse:
This is the first solid piece of documentation I was able to find back in February of 2002. It is from a Summer/Fall 1949 "counter book", sometimes found in jewelry stores of the time. When I first found the ad, most Breyer collectors were perplexed knowing Breyer didn't begin making horses until 1950. The base shown is a walnut base with a light colored horse with dark shading in the mane and tail. A similar ad appeared in Bennett Brother, Inc.'s 1950 Blue Book of Quality Merchandise catalog, however the manufacturer's suggested retail price was listed as $14.95
This ad appeared in the same counter book the following year. The copy is basically the same, however they moved the larger text down and made it smaller. The ads appeared in the 1949 and 1950 editions of this counter book, but was not in the 1948 or 1951 editions.

(I had help finding these ads from a catalog dealer, however he would not tell me the name of the catalog. He was still trying to find additional years and did not want to bid against me. Still, I trust the source.)

Based on the Victor Horse ads we were able to positively state that the clock was available in 1949 and at least part of 1950.
The ads confused our little study group. It appeared to us at the time that Breyer horses were on the bases. Interestingly, Sheryl Leisure noticed the Diamond I imprint on the underside of a "Hartland" style clock base. Then, to our amazement, Sande Schneider took the cover off her "Breyer" style base to discover it also had the Diamond I mold mark! All the bases we've inspected since then have the imprint. How and why would a Breyer horse be on a Hartland base?...and who made the saddles?
The Missing Link finally appeared! The close up of the ad below appeared in Novelties and Toys in June of 1950. As the section states, this was Hartland's offering for "New Toys on Parade". Again, we were offered a knuckle ball. The horse shown in the ad had the mane on the left!
It took us a while to understand what we were seeing. Surely, Hartland wouldn't use a photo of a Breyer horse in their own ad? Nancy Young identified it as one of the horses with the diamond conchos and distinctive tail. That horse matched the horse in the Victor Clock ads. Pieces of the puzzle started making sense.
It became clear the horse was a Hartland piece and it had been standing on a Hartland base all along. Later it became apparent the saddle was also a Hartland piece when compared to other positively identified Hartland saddles.
 
The key to identifying Hartland and Breyer horses can be seen in the photo above. Notice the shape of the conchos on the bridles of the two horses above. Nancy Young, the quintessential Breyer expert, labels the style on the right as "diamond conchos". Well, they aren't exactly perfect diamonds, but they aren't round. A Breyer Western Horse is shown on the left. We are now confident that all large horses with the diamond conchos were actually Hartland pieces, regardless of the side the mane is on! (There may be a few knockoff versions out there that are similar).
The last loose end we had to explain was the occasional occurrence of the new style "Hartland" horse on the clock base. The ad above probably supplies a few clues. By press time of 1950, Hartland was announcing their intentions of entering the toy market. While we may never know all the reasons for the new style horse, I suspect they were preparing for the upcoming demand on the mold.
Once the clock deal was completed with Mastercrafters, Hartland did not renew relations with them. Mastercrafters then went to Breyer Animal Creations to make a new "Horse Beside the Clock". Breyer created a new horse with perfectly round conchos, a base, and a saddle for their offering. Using limited documentation, I suggest Hartland's relations with Mastercrafters all happened in early 1949 to early 1950. Hartland's second horse was apparently in production at some point near the end of the clock production run. At least a few of the new style horses made it onto the bases. No one really knows if any of the later style clocks were actually sold through Mastercrafters, or if they were just remnants and prototypes kept by Hartland officials and employees. Only a few have survived.
The Alabaster, or light marble base is another variation. It was also produced by Hartland Plastics for Mastercrafters Clock and Radio. So far, I have not been able to find an ad showing this configuration, but it has to exist somewhere. The horse shown in the photo on the right is what Nancy Young calls the "sorrel version". The white horse can also be found on that base. Many of the horses in this color scheme have turned to a "bile" green.
Nancy Young, author of Breyer Molds and Models, also uses this horse to help confirm this is a Hartland offering and not a Breyer horse....."And consider, too, the fact that Hartland sorrel color (painted on other Hartland molds) is known to turn green. Sheryl owns an example or two and told me that this is a known tragedy among Hartlands. Breyer sorrels and palominos, on the other hand, retain their lovely realistic colors to this day (though their plastic can yellow, of course). Breyers don't turn green. So the very greenness of the diamond-conchos greenies implicates them as Hartlands."
To read more of Nancy's comments: CLICK HERE!

Photos couresty Shanna Hughes:
The San Francisco Horse:
In July of 2004, Shanna Hughes notified me of a horse she owned. The horse is of the early style, with off white plastic and brown stained mane and tail, including the diamond conchos. The hooves show no evidence of having holes drilled in it for pegs or screws from being fastened to a base.
On the flank of the horse, someone had burned in San Francisco 1949. It looks professionally done in a calligraphic style.

Assuming the date is correct, the horse at least suggests Hartland was selling the freestanding horse either before or during their Mastercrafters Clocks. When I say "before", I introduce the option that Hartland may have already had the horse manufactured and didn't know how to market it or get it on the streets. Possibly Hartland contacted Mastercrafters to see if they were interested in making a clock. This might explain a few other mini-mysteries. Hartland may have discovered they could sell the horse easily enough on their own, and make more money in the process, than just getting a small slice of the pie with Mastercrafters. The next logical progression would be an ad in a toy catalog.

Saddles:
While I might have a bit of experience holding a lot of the Horse and Rider sets, my hands-on experience with the clocks has been extremely limited. For many years, I was only trying to find one of the clocks with the horse facing right, with the mane on the right. The rest were Breyers. Right? So, when it comes to a few related details, I must glean information from others with more experience and more examples to examine.

Sande Schneider has kept me on track throughout all this, so I will fall back on her expertise on the saddles. Sande sent this information to me in a recent E-Mail:

"In my observations, I have determined that old Breyer saddles always have the donut-hole style rivets/grommets attaching the cinch to the saddle. Earlier saddles have the grommet high up on the fender, and later ones have the grommet noticeably lower on the fender. Works that way with Breyer's Western Pony and Prancer saddles too. Both of those size saddles with cinches have snap-on cinches.

Whereas some, only some, early Hartland saddles have cinches. Those cinches are attached to their saddles with a nail-head style grommet, and those cinches fasten with slip-thru buckles, NOT snaps. From what I've seen, original saddles from Hartland horses *over* clocks were also brown with whitewashed skirting. Some of those saddles were cinchless and others had the buckle-on cinches. I'm not sure which style came first, but I've had only two of the buckle-on ones, and only two of the cinchless ones. But, then I can only remember ever owning five Western Horses that were the Hartland ones with mane on the left side. Two of those were still over clocks and the other three were free-standing, but may have been over-clocks at one time."

I'll try to get some photos of the various saddles on this page as time permits.
Bridles:
Once again, I will have to rely on other people for this one, though I do have a few examples to photograph. In the early horses, there were two basic types.
Unlike the beaded chain reins most Hartland Horse and Rider collectors are familiar with, the early Large Horses often had O-Link style chains fastened either with a ring or a clasp at the two holes in the horse's mouth. The three photos here show the O-Link style chain connected at the bit with a clasp. Any Hartland collector will also identify the tag seen below as a Hartland style tag. Also of note, the tag labels this lot 57, probably assigned by Mastercrafters.

The address on the tag exactly matches the address for Mastercrafters Clock and Radio. I don't know if this horse had holes in the hooves from previously being attached to a base? With the Ceramic Clock Co. tag, it would seem to be the case.

The horses in the photo on the right are owned by Sande Schneider. The horse on the right lacks the drilled out holes for any sort of reins. She points out the same scenario in the 1950 toy ad. She reports seeing another gray one at a show.
It is hard to say whether the toy ad was "artistic license" or the intended direction of the toy line, but a few examples exist. Still, it is easy to put the 1950 toy ad photo after the1949 showings of Victor Horse on the clock. Those ads clearly show a set of reins. We have not seen a Horse Over the Clock lacking holes for the reins, however, I show them here to help confirm Hartland as the manufacturer.
Even though the reins with the horse in the back are on a Breyer horse, the photo above illustrates the other style connector often associated with the early horses. Of the four examples I have here right now, three have clasps. (photo of both styles side by side coming soon)
 
The Third Large Horse:
In late 1953, Hartland began producing a new large rider for the large horse. The new toy campaign maintained momentum throughout 1954. With the new rider, Hartland created a long seat saddle and later a new horse. Like their second horse, the mane was created on the right side. To further distinguish it from the horse being produced by Breyer, Hartland removed the split in the mane and removed the round portion of the round conchos on top edge of the martingale. Hartland continued to use their second and third horse mold throughout the production of their 900 series Horse and Riders.
Re-Writing History:
I believe anyone reading all the clues above should agree how well all the pieces dovetail with each other. If you don't buy the explanation, you have a lot of serious problems to explain to the rest of us! For example, how did the Breyer horse end up on a Hartland base? How did that Breyer horse show up on the clock a year earlier than stated on Breyer's own printed documentation? How can the micro scratches in the clock saddle match exactly the scratches in saddles later positively identified as Hartlands?

We now feel the old 'authorities', lacking the necessary documentation and hard evidence, were perpetuating 'hobby legend'. After piecing together all the newly discovered evidence, it becomes apparent that 'hobby legend' is false. Upcoming books will need some serious revisions!

  
This page has been written and re-written several times since my first attempt in 2000. The current version will probably change some, too, but right now I feel very confident we are pretty close to the truth. When the June, 1950 Novelties and Toys announcement appeared, the entire story line had to be updated and modified. While waiting for the "fallout" to settle, I created a post on my bulletin board about the new finds. Notable collectors such as Nancy Young, Sande Schneider, and others added information to support the new story line, along with numerous additional photos and ads.
Hartland Westerns Bulletin Board Post: CLICK HERE!
 
The 2000-2005 Clock Research Group:
As mentioned earlier, the research on this topic has been ongoing since 2000. Of course, research continues as I write this page again. I've had a lot of help from numerous dedicated Hartland and Breyer collectors. All have been eager to help. Thanks to all!

The research group included:
Mike Jackson, Denise Deen, Phil Duncan, Jo Kulwicki, Hartland Collectibles, LLC, George C. Jones, Sheryl Leisure, Bruce Schwartz, Sande Schneider, Joy Sheesley, Heather Wells, Nancy Young, and a long list of others that have helped with photos and leads.

Related Links:
Classified Directory of Wisconsin Manufacturers
Sande Schneider’s Page of 16 Large Champs
Ads and Catalogs arranged by the year
Roy Rogers Dealer Sheets
The Missing Champ Literature
Chief Thunderbird instruction sheet
1953 Wyeth Company Catalog Sheet
Roger Russell’s Mastercrafters Web Site
Official Site of the American International TOY FAIR
 
This page last modified Saturday, March 07, 2009