The origins of this as a scale for models can be traced back to the early 1930's.

The first commercially mass-produced scale models of aircraft were the Skybird kits from England. Skybirds wanted all of their kits to be to one scale. 1/72 scale was chosen because a six foot person would be one inch tall, very easy to look at and imagine the size of the aircraft based on a human figure. All major parts were partially shaped wood, to be carved and sanded to correct shape by the hobbyist. Small parts were cast metal, and acetate was used for windscreens and canopies. Skybird kits were produced from 1932 until 1946. In addition to their kits, they also offered many accessories; from hangers and airport buildings to figures. Their 'Skybird League' was the predecessor of IPMS.

Frog Penguin came next. Frog stands for "Flies Right Off the Ground", a reference to their original flying models which first appeared in 1932. Their first injection moulded kits, all to 1/72 scale, appeared in 1936. They were produced from an early form of plastic and were called Frog Penguins in order to differentiate between flying models and display models. The first line of kits were produced until 1941.

 
 
the origins of 1/72 scale modelling.
 
 
During World War II, Frog manufactured target drones. There was also a massive effort in the UK and then in the US and Japan to produce scale models to assist in the training of combat crew in being able to recognize different aircraft types, both of the enemy and friendly. The models were made out of black 'Bakelite' type plastic and had basic features, but were to constant 1/72 and replicated the real thing. Thousands of school children were recruited to make these models, serving to ground many in what was to become a life-long pastime. Frog also produced identification models (in 1/72 scale, of course) made from wood and buckram, a material usually associated with book binding. Some of the actual models built during this period still survive, and can be seen at various museums including the Smithsonian Institution in the United States. You can visit the Smithsonian here. To learn more about WW II ID Recognition models, visit aircraftmodels.com.

Frog resumed the production of injection-moulded Penguin kits in 1946, but until then, Frog produced a few wood kits in 1945-46 as a stop-gap. Small parts were done as injection-moulded parts. The Penguin name was finally dropped in 1950. The early injection-moulded kits were prone to severe warpage over the years. Most still in existance in good shape fetch hundreds of dollars from collectors. Most Frog Penguin kits were available both as kits and already built. For more information about Frog Penguin kits, visit the FrogPenguin enthusiast site.

With the rise of model making to pre-eminence in the 1960's, Frog battled with Airfix in the UK as premier model manufacturer until their demise in 1976. They re-released their kits many times and produced their kits for the foreign market under many labels. Trade exchanges also existed, with Frog releasing kits from Renwal, Hasegawa, and others for the British market under the Frog label.

Hawk models in the US began production of flying models in the late 1920s. Their first 1/72 display models came out in the early 1950s. Aurora kits were in production from 1952 until 1977. Monogram began production of injection molded kits in the early1950s. Revell started up in the early 1940s, starting production of 1/72 scale kits in the 1960s.

At this time, just looking at aviation, more than 11,700 kits and models of different subjects have been produced. This includes injection-moulded, cast resin, diecast metal, vacuform, and even printed paper card. A huge percentage are still available. There are more than 3,470 kits and models of vehicles in 1/72 and 1/76 scales. Most of the new subjects are now done in 1/72 scale. 1/76 is 00 gauge, a size used in the UK for many years for model trains, explaining to some extent why it was originally chosen. There are thousands of kits and models of other subjects from ships and boats to figures and artillery. All are listed in ESM 72 with hundreds of illustrations.

Another book which is worth reading is the Encyclopedia of Military Models: 1/72: Aircraft, Missiles, Science Fiction, Vehicles, Artillery, Figures, Warships; by Claude Boileau, Huynh-Dinh Khuong, & Thomas A Young; published by TAB Books Inc 1988 (US Edition), Airlife Publishing Ltd 1988 (European Edition) ISBN 0-8306-8283-X HB, 0-8306-8386-6 PB. The original French edition is copyright 1985. Book details via Brooks Rowlett.

This synopsis of the history of 1/72 has been adapted from information very kindly provided by Tom Young, of ESM 72. The Encyclopedia of 1/72 Scale Models, which he publishes, documents literally every model produced in this scale; a tremendous resource for the historical scholar and collector. More information on this hard-copy publication can be obtained by contacting him at maiesm72@aol.com.

 
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1070 since inception, since 22/05/03, last updated 23/02/04.
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