This red Rosko robot spaceman toy is a tin toy produced in Japan for export to an American market. In the 1950s and 1960s, its manufacturer, Nomura, specialized in producing robot-themed metal toys (including several versions of an unlicensed "Robby" robot from the film "Forbidden Planet"). In post-WWII Japan, producing these metal toys began as a way to tap into an international market for "penny toys" or cheap playthings, but developed by the late 1950s into a industry manufacturing creatively-designed, complex toys with moving parts and/lights that competed successfully with Western toymakers. This Rosko battery-powered astronaut, which can be viewed as either a human space traveler or a futuristic robot, blended the American fascination with outer space with the Japanese fad for robots.
Using “kanei-kogyo,” or family industries, many Japanese tin toy companies distributed preprinted metal sheets to home-based shops, where families worked together to stamp, shape, and wholly or partially assemble them. The distributor paid these family shops by the piece and shipped the completed toys overseas. Because space themes sold well, many toys received space-age designs or packaging.
The Gewirz family donated this toy to the Museum in 2006.
Gift of the Carl and Nancy Gewirz Fund Inc.
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Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum