The Virtual Marx Museum is very proud to be able to offer you this story about how the MARX WHITE HOUSE PLAYSET was born!!!! We thank Mr. Gary Nisperly for his time and all the research he did to provide this most interesting story.
BUILDING THE WHITE HOUSE
There are not too many people that know how the Presidential White House in Washington, D.C. was built. No, this is not about the White House that is the home of our Presidents and was constructed many years ago. This is about the White House that was built by the Louis Marx & Co, at one time the largest manufacturer of toys in the world. This White House was built in 1954 with the help of a few good men and women in Glen Dale, WV.
Why did the Louis Marx & Co. build the White House? It all started in the 1940s when the owner of Marx Toys, Mr. Louis Marx, became a friend with General Dwight D. Eisenhower. General Eisenhower, with the support of Mr. Louis Marx, was elected in 1952 as the 34th President of the United States.
Mr. Louis Marx, who personally approved all toys made by his company and would come up with ideas for new toys that his company could produce, decided that the Louis Marx & Co. should make a plastic likeness of the White House so all citizens of the United States could have one in their homes. He gave this responsibility to Walter E. Nisperly, Head of Design and Development at the Louis Marx toy factory in Glen Dale, WV.
In late 1953 the design of the model of the White House was started. First it was necessary for Walter Nisperly to get photos of the White House from which to make the model. How does someone get photos of every angle of the White House? This was the first problem to overcome. Another Glen Dale Marx employee told Walter that Al “Chapie” Chapman, the foreman of the Glen Dale Marx shipping department might be able to help him. Mr. Chapman was a leading Democrat in the state and had a lot of influence in getting what he wanted. A Democrat getting photos of the White House controlled by a Republican? Walter went down to shipping and told Chapie that he needed photos of the White House and asked if he could help. Within a couple of weeks Walter had many photos of the White House and from every angle, including photos of the roof taken from above. Walter never asked Chapie how he got the photos, he was just glad to get them. From the photos of the White House, Walter and the artists and model makers in the model room went to work on the model of the White House. It took 700 man hours to make the model of the White House.
The above photo is the actual photo of the original prototype model of the White House that was made in the model room of the Louis Marx & Co in Glen Dale, WV. It is from the files of the late Walter Nisperly.
The model of the White House was made in the model room and then it was taken downstairs to the machine shop were the machinists would have to take every little part of the model and make a mold for each part so that each part of the White House could be mass produced in the plastic presses. While the molds were being made, Walter Nisperly was busy having the art work created for the boxes and then having the boxes for the White House made by a box manufacturing company. Also the design for the bags would have to be sent out to be made to hold the individual parts. The model room also was busy preparing the assembly instruction sheets so those who purchased the sets would know how to assemble the White House. After each of the parts were produced and the boxes, instruction sheets and bags were done, everything was sent to the assembly room were the women on the line would place the correct parts in the proper bags and place all the proper bags and other parts in the White House boxes. These boxes where then stapled closed and then 4 of these boxes where placed in a corrugated box, sealed and sent to the shipping department for shipment around the country.
While the White House was being made, the Glen Dale model room was also designing and hand making the prototypes of the Presidential figures that went along with the White House. Around 4 different size prototypes of President Eisenhower were made with him holding both arms up. Not all of these were produced.
On July 26, 1954, Walter Nisperly and his family had the opportunity to visit the White House and were given a person tour of the Oval Office and other areas of the White House by President Eisenhower’s Press Secretary, James C. Hagerty. Following is a photo taken of Walter, his wife Gail and children Carolyn and Gary. It was taken on the grounds of the White house
|Below is a letter Walter Nisperly sent to President Eisenhower’s Press Secretary James C. Hagerty thanking him for the courtesies extend to him during his visit to the White House and asking Mr. Hagerty if he got the model of the White House sent to him.
September 8, 1954
The Honorable James C. Hagerty
Press Secretary to the President
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Dear Mr. Hagerty
Just a little bit late, but, I certainty want to thank you for all the courtesies shown my wife, two children and myself during our visit to your office on July 28th.
In fact, the children are still talking about it as it was the main event of our two week vacation.
We now have the White House molds running and also have all the presidents’ figures , plus a new set of figures of famous five star generals of the United States Army, including President Eisenhower when he was a general, so, would you kindly send me your home address, as I would like to send you some of these figures of which we have made up with a special gold finish
Mr Chapman was to send you a model of the White House. I do not know whether this was done or not, so, if you did not get this, or would like to have another one, you can let me know.
With kindest regards
Very truly yours
W. E. Nisperly
Below is the response Walter Nisperly received from James Hagerty, President Eisenhower’s Press Secretary.
|The above article on “Building the White House” was written by Gary Nisperly, the son of Walter E. Nisperly. Information was taken from the files of the late Walter Nisperly and from information told to Gary by his father. Any parts of it may used by anyone without the written permission of Gary Nisperly.
NOT ALL MODELS MADE WENT INTO PRODUCTION
Most collectors of toys made by the Louis Marx & Company would assume that when the Marx model room at the Glen Dale WV plant would go to the expense of making a model of a toy that it would later go into production as a marketable toy. This is not always the case. Many models are made and never became a toy that went into production. A good example of this is the model of the Lincoln Monument located in our National Capital at Washington, DC. A model of the Lincoln Monument was made in 1954 around the time the model of the White House was made in the model room at the Glen Dale plant. For some unknown reason the Lincoln Monument was never produced by Marx. Below is a photo of the model of the Lincoln Monument from the files of the late Walter Nisperly who was in charge of the Glen Dale model room. The statute of Abraham Lincoln does not appear to be inside the monument so it must be assumed that the model was never finished. Why it was not finished is only known to Walter and the New York staff of Louis Marx and Company.
This article was written by Gary Nisperly, son of Walter Nisperly. Permission is granted to use this article and the photo by others.