On January 19, 1947, the company Lesney Products was formed by two (unrelated) school friends, Leslie Smith and Rodney Smith. At first they didn't know what kinds of "products" they would make, nor did either work full-time for the firm. With about 600 pounds of seed money, they bought an old tavern in Edmonton, London, and some surplus government die casting machinery, and decided to make pressure die casting products for industrial use. They were joined by John W. "Jack" Odell, and they started producing small die-cast components.
During a late-year slowdown, they decided to look for other products they could make to keep their people and equipment busy. They experimented with a few die-cast toys, and in 1948 the first of these, an Aveling-Barford Road Roller, was produced and sold to a few local London shops. More toys followed, although the use of zinc was restricted during the Korean War, 1950-1952, so only the tin Jumbo The Elephant was produced during this period.
London distributors did not take these toys seriously, but children loved them and shopkeepers wanted more. Through 1953 Lesney had produced 17 different toys. By late that year, the Lesney management recognized this market, and established a marketing alliance with Moses Kohnstam's company Moko to market their toys.
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