George Heyde established his toy soldier company in Dresden, Germany in 1872. Hyde's toy models soon gained favor overseas in England and the USA. These new markets provided new subject matter for Heyde's production, and creating figures for those markets greatly increased both business and Heyde's reputation.
Until World War I Heyde was the leading exporter of toy soldiers worldwide. A wide variety of themes and poses was one reason; but in addition the company could appeal to the children of any country by a simple change of heads and paint to represent that nation's armies. The Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I prohibited the production of war toys or specifically, toy soldiers for export. This opened the door for W. Britains to fill the void in the world market and also lead to a number of small US companies to pirate Heyde's style and designs. Heyde continued to produce up until World War II by placing more emphasis on civilian figures. The fire-bombing of Dresden destroyed most of the factory but a few employees continued to make figures into the late 1940s, before pressure from the new east German government forced them to close for good.
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