The Ertl Company


Fred Ertl Sr. started making toy tractors in the furnace of his home, in 1945. He was a journeyman molder at a Dubuque firm that was temporarily idled by a strike. With a wife and five sons to support, he started taking defective aluminum aircraft pistons and melting them down. He poured this aluminum into sand molds, and started making toy tractors.


By 1946, the basement wasn't big enough, so the business moved to a 1,040 square foot building in Dubuque.


By 1947 Ertl was incorporated and moved into a larger 11,000 square foot building. Mr. Ertl met with people at Deere & Company and was able to get approval to produce toy tractors with the John Deere name. The first John Deere toy tractor produced was a Model "A".


In 1959, Ertl built a larger facility in Dyersville, IA and moved all production to that facility. The Ertl Company was acquired by Victor Comptometer Corporation in 1967 which was subsequently purchase by Kidde, Inc. in 1977.


By 1980, Ertl was producing close to one million die-cast tractor items per year. In 1982, Ertl's line consisted of over 60 different John Deere items alone.


In the late 1990's both Racing Champions and Ertl produced replicas of the John Deere racing cars as driven by Chad Little; Racing Champions and Ertl merged forces in 1999.


In the last 20 years, Ertl—now RC2—has produced over 58 million die-cast tractors and implements to delight kids and collectors throughout the world.


Important Dates in Ertl Company History


  • 1945 Ertl Company is founded by Fred Ertl, Sr.
  • 1959 The company moves to larger facilities in Dyersville, Iowa.
  • 1967 Ertl is acquired by Victor Comptometer Corporation.
  • 1971 Ertl acquires Carter Tru-Scale.
  • 1972 Ertl begins manufacturing plastic model kits.
  • 1974 Ertl acquires Structo Stamped Steel.
  • 1977 Kidde, Inc. acquires Ertl with purchase of Victor Comptometer Corp.
  • 1981 Ertl acquires AMT model kit company.
  • 1985 Ertl acquires MPC model kits.
  • 1987 Hanson PLC purchases Kidde Corporation. Ertl acquires ECSI model kit company.
  • 1989 Racing Champions is founded by Bob Dods, Boyd Meyer and Peter Chung.
  • 1995 Hanson PLC consolidates its U.S. companies to form U.S.I. (United States Industries.
  • 1996 Racing Champions Corporation is formed.
  • 1997 Ertl purchases Britains
  • 1999 Racing Champions acquires The Ertl Company.
  • 2003 Racing Champions Ertl acquires Learning Curve, changes name to RC2 Corporation
  • 2004 RC2 Corporation acquires The First Years and Playing Mantis
  • 2009 Ertl celebrates 50 years in Dyersville, IA
  • 2010 Ertl celebrates its 65th Anniversary.