The Knapp Electric and Novelty Company was founded in 1895 in New York, N.Y. by inventor David W. Knapp.
The company made electic motors, toy electric automobiles, board games, magic kits, shocking coils, dynamos, fans and
electric specialties. They were located at 47 Warren Street in Manhattan.
As early as 1898 advertisements appeared announcing the combination of the Knapp C and D type
motors with cell batteries made by the Gordon Burnham Co. to produce the 'Electrical Engineer' cooling fan.
The ads stated that, "the fans were fitted with a pulley for running toys".
In 1902 the company marketed a Kenco Trade Mark No. 1 Electric Toy Train kit which
consisted of a trolley car and 9 feet of track that could be assembled into an oval. The trolley measured 8
inches long by 5 inches high. The motor was powered by a two watt source.
The company later introduced a full line of 2" gauge 2 rail electric trains in 1904 making them one of
the earliest producers of electric toy trains. Trolleys and trains in 2" gauge were manufactured between 1902
and 1913 only.
2" gauge (also called II gauge) is a model railway gauge originally 64 mm (2½ inches), later standardized in
1909 at 2 inches (50.8 mm), a 20% reduction and
a change in definition: from mm to inches. The 2 gauge was introduced by Märklin
at the Leipzig toy fair in 1891. 2 gauge was equivalent to a 1:22.5 scale. This gauge has since fallen
into disuse, as Lionel's
introduction of Standard gauge became very popular in the 1920's.
Around 1900 Knapp also produced a miniature electric powered toy automobile.
The Knapp Electric and Novelty Company's patented small, 3 pole armature based 'Little Hustler' DC motors were
acquired by the AC
Gilbert Company and used in their famous Erector Sets. Three pole armature motors start easily without assistance when current is applied.
Knapp is most noted for making the popular and long lived board game titled "The Knapp Electic Questioner".
It was manufactured from the 1890's through the late 1940's. The Knapp Electric Questioner had various sets
of quiz cards ranging from flags
to animals to trivia. Upon completing the circuit by touching the two probes to the correct question
and answer a buzzer would sound.
The game also included a Morse code key with the code printed on the inside lid for your convenience. The
game came with blank cards for creating
your own quizzes and the company would actually pay you $5.00 for quizzes you submitted to them for use.
Sets of 11 cards cost $.50 and included
such topics as Conundrums, True-to-Life, and American History. At its height, the game sold over 150,000
units a year.
The company relocated a few times, first to 126 White Street, then to 509-517 west 51st Street in Manhattan, then later moved to Port Chester New York.
David W. Knapp brought in his son David A. Knapp to help run the business.
Knapp was the only 2" gauge 2 rail electric train company that made locomotives that had cast iron
bodies. Knapp also did not manufacture as wide a variety of electric trains that the other train makers
(Voltamp, Howard, Carlisle & Finch) of that era made. All of their locomotives
used the 0-4-0 wheel arrangement. Carlisle & Finch acted as a distributor and marketed toys made by Knapp
Electric. Like Carlisle & Finch trains, the Knapp electrics utilized wet cell batteries for DC
operation. They also manufactured a cast-iron double wheeled hand cranked electric dynamo generator to create current for operating the electric trolleys
2" Train production ended in 1913, but Knapp later marketed cast brass, copper and aluminum
HO scale trains from 1931-46 that ironically ran on AC power. The HO train parts inventory and designs for the brass Knapp 4-8-2 Mountain loco kit were later
acquired by Bill Bowser for his Bowser Mfg. Company, of Redlands, CA. Knapp Electric Inc. moved from New York to Indianapolis, IN
around 1937. The company was located at 3029 E. Washington Street, in Indianapolis. The Knapps, in association with P.R. Mallory,
also manufactured a range of electric items other than magic sets and games while in Indianapolis including automobile fans, electric popcorn poppers,
irons, coffee pots, small electric motors, toy motors, vaporizers, blenders, mixers and electric blankets. The company closed in the 1940's.