Researching toys to feature in this series, I came across a compilation of letters to Santa in an old newspaper. In 1954, 10-year-old Steve asked Santa for a “Fort Apache set”:
The Fort Apache Wild West Play Set was one of several themed play sets produced by Louis Marx and Company. Marx made several boxed play sets throughout the 1950s and ’60s, often based on historical events or popular television shows of the era. The Fort Apache play set was named after the 1948 film starring John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Shirley Temple. (It is also an Indian Reservation located in Arizona.)
The centerpiece of the Fort Apache set was, unsurprisingly, a plastic fort. Pieces included “Indians [sic], cavalrymen and shell-shooting cannons,” a covered wagon, teepee, totem pole, campfire and other wild west-themed items.
This TV commercial featuring Fort Apache, Fighting Knights, Boot Camp and Cape Kennedy play sets was made several years after Steve wrote to Santa, but since Fort Apache was one of Marx’s most popular play sets, it was produced from 1951 until the company went bankrupt in the 1970s.