Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Men of '76

With one, late-to-the-party exception, a blank page represented the American Revolution in my toy soldier life book. For years, particularly in the two months preceding my birthday and Christmas, I hyperventilated over the Sears and J.C. Penney’s catalog playset pages much as I would Playboy magazine a few years later. But, in panting over the three or four pages of 54 mm heaven marketed in the catalogs, I was never tempted by Marx’s “Sons of Liberty” – and stuck resolutely to The Big Three: World War Two, Civil War and American West, with a dash of The Alamo and Knights and Vikings thrown in for variety.

But as I neared the end of the kid trail, a magical little army of Swoppet-style British grenadiers and Colonial ‘rebels’ snared my imagination, and left me a wonderful clutch of memories. The sculpting was somewhat less than refined, and the soldiers rather wooden of limb, but I played with them for hours. The figures in question – marketed as “The Men of ‘76” - were released to commemorate/cash in on the country’s bicentennial, and could be purchased in blister packs that contained from two to five figures. Accessories included double-trail brass cannon and, more significantly, a large, ‘stone’ structure – “Fort Liberty” - that bore a passing resemblance to Fort Ticonderoga. I acquired them all.

Regrettably, ‘Fort Liberty’ vanished down the same rabbit hole as my original Fort Apache block house, but I still have the figures and cannon.  

"The Men of '76," in firing formation. Note the race of the cannoneer - a nice touch. And a rare one. A couple of actual Swoppet patriots can be seen yonder, behind the fence. These fellows were simply too expensive to purchase in bulk.
King George's elite infantry prepare to chasten the upstart rebels with a volley of their own.
"The Men of '76' also featured Hessian mercs, which were depicted in forest green breeches and coats. On the far right, Swoppet figures add a bit more class to the organic set. 
As found on Ebay: "Fort Liberty' and its original box. Both the fort and the towhead's bowl cut took me right back.
A close-up of the cannon. This is a well-detailed little piece, and can be used in pirate battles, The Alamo, War of 1812, Napoleonic combat, etc. I have five of them.
"Fort Liberty," from another Ebay listing. Note the jail at the opposite end of the structure.
To counter the Lobster Backs' Prussian-born hired guns, the Colonials fielded a smattering of French regulars - seen on the far right, in white coats and breeches (and royal purple collars).


  1. I remember these coming out in the the 70s around the Bicentennial. They were poor relations to the Britains Rev War Swoppetts I had in the 60s.

  2. Yep; VERY poor relations. The great thing about the Men of '76, though, was their affordability. I'd like to gradually stock up on those Revolutionary War Swoppetts. They are extremely well sculpted.

  3. I picked up several blister packs of these when I backpacked around the U.S. in 1976, they were the only toy soldiers I found in the whole of the country! I remember I had to pass on the fort though, too big to go in the pack. Great memories, thanks for bringing them bakck to me, I still have the figures somewhere.

    Best wishes, Brian

  4. I had a box of each set of the swoppets as a kid. Nice fort!