- Historic Sites
Sam Orkin’s Navy
April 1970 | Volume 21, Issue 3
The curious sight above takes us back to the recruiting and Liberty Bond drives of World War I, to a time when the engines of war were as popular as “preparedness” itself. These gentlemen have just launched a miraculous working model of the then-powerful dreadnought U.S.S. Pennsylvania . They belong to no military-industrial complex except the toy business, and they plan to do their patriotic bit by exhibiting their stuff in stores all over the country.
This fine model was the brain child of Samuel Orkin, who appears second from right, in glasses, beaming with pride. Mr. Orkin, born in Kiev, Russia, in 1891, immigrated with his family to Boston when he was seven, managed to get through two years of the Boston Mechanics High School, and then had to go to work in the familyjewelry business. Had he only been able to get more education, it seems likely that he might have become a very notable man; his achievements without it are as astounding as his luck was bad. After his Navy-sponsored tours of stores (one of whose ads appears in part below), he started a toy-boat factory. It foundered in the Depression. He started another, which expired in the subsequent recession. He imported toys; he sold liquor wholesale (in partnership with a son of Francis X. Bushman, the movie actor); he became a tool-and-die maker in World War II for Lockheed; and he invented a method for printing colored pictures on plastic. At the moment, Sam Orkin, now seventy-eight, is still going strong and has invented a means of reproducing paintings in rhinestones, an unlikely and somewhat blinding art form which may yet prove to have a market. Mr. Orkin’s daughter Ruth, a noted New York photographer, brought us this picture as a curiosity and told us that she remembers seeing the boat long ago when she was a little girl. Lightning flashed between the telegraph towers, guns went off, and smoke poured out of the stacks while tiny sailors raced up and down the decks on an endless chain. “Father could make anything,” says Miss Orkin; the only trouble was that he was terrible when it came to helping her with homework.