A Brief History of Monogram Models, Inc - 
The First Forty Years


Robert Reder


Self Published, 2000


Rick Fluke


Available from Hannan's Runway

Unless you happened to grow up in a cave in Tibet (-or outback in Montana?) chances are that you have been surrounded by Monogram brand plastic kits for as long as you can remember.

Some of we "older" modelers can also recall an earlier time when Monogram produced ships, cars, and planes which were made entirely out of Balsa wood. In 1949 they began to introduce their classic "Speedee-Bilt" and "Super Kit" series of balsa aircraft models which dared to introduce propellers, cowlings, and other detailed parts moulded from Cellulose Acetate. Initial sales were disheartening and some of the hobby's major distributors recommended dropping the price per kit from 75 cents to 50 cents or - better yet - discontinue the entire product line!! (Fortunately the folks at Monogram did not take this well intended advice.)

During March of 1954 Monogram began to advertise it's first all plastic model kit, a 1/20th scale "Midget Racer" which was soon followed by a 1/21st scale "Hot Rod". The rest as they say is history...........

And that is the title and intent of this slender 96 page softbound book which has been self published by one of the firm's founders, Mr. Robert Reder.

Reder, who is now in his 80s, begins by relating how the company began in 1945 when he and a fellow Comet Models employee, Jack Besser, decided to combine their life savings of $5,000 to start the business.

Subsequent chapters sketch the history and evolution of the firm and it's products. Advertising, packaging and promotions are touched upon as are the numerous moves made to increasingly larger facilities. Sprinkled throughout the text are occasional tidbits such as the near disastrous 1958 introduction of Monogram's Kit PD40, "The US Missile Arsenal".

Also included is a five page reprint of an article which appeared in the December 1988 issue of Fine Scale Modeler: "How Plastic Kits Are Made" by Paul Boyer. The publication ends all too quickly with a 20 page index of product introductions made yearly from November of 1945 ("LST 608") through kit # 5442, the 1/48th scale "Thunderbirds F-100" which appeared on shop shelves during December of 1985.

Having read the book in one short sitting, I have to compare it's content to Chinese Food: While everything was tasty I began to feel hungry again as soon as I closed the last page. I wish that Mr. Reder could have shared a lot more of those interesting little bits of historical information which appear haphazardly throughout the text.

Is the book worth $19.95 ?? Not if you are expecting any great in depth look at the secret inner workings of this pioneering American company. However, if you grew up along with Monogram, you may want a copy just for nostalgia's sake. Old catalog listings with unheard of prices such as the 75 cent Speedee-Bilt kits still bring tears to my eyes! If you want your own copy, you might want to order it soon as the publication is already being listed as being in "limited supply".

Review Copy courtesy of the money I saved in one week of not smoking! ;-)

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