Small Talk Tag: Toy

Time’s Most Influential Toys

Time Magazine Most Influential

Last year, Time magazine interviewed toy historians and experts to come up with the most influential toys of all time. They defined influential as toys that had the biggest impact on the toy industry and the world at large.

The list included a lot of toys that were “firsts:” Chatty Cathy was the first talking doll. G.I. Joe was the first doll for boys… oops… we mean “action figure.” The Easy Bake Oven allowed kids to make edible food for the first time. Doc McStuffins was the first black doll to become popular among kids of all races. And Cabbage Patch dolls were the first toys not tied to popular culture that everyone had to have.

Others like Leap Pad, Rubik’s Cube, View-Master, Star Wars figurines, Super Soaker, Nerf Bow and Arrow, Barbie, and LEGO made the list for their sheer popularity, for becoming not only toys, but collectibles, or for starting a movement. That’s a powerful bunch of toys.

A Bear in Brooklyn

michtom teddy bear

You might be familiar with the story of how the teddy bear was named after President Theodore Roosevelt. After refusing to shoot a defenseless (and already maimed) bear, the incident was forever immortalized in a November 1903 newspaper cartoon. The compassionate depiction of Roosevelt captured the hearts of Americans, including a particular Russian Jewish immigrant couple in New York.

Shop owners Morris and Rose Michtom ran a small penny goods store in Brooklyn. After seeing the famous newspaper cartoon, Rose was so inspired she created a plush bear to put in their store window and named him “Teddy’s bear.” Dozens of shoppers began asking if the bear was for sale, and Rose became worried about marketing an item using the president’s name, so Morris mailed the original to the White House with a letter asking permission. Roosevelt doubted it would matter much and consented, giving rise to one of the most famous toys in history. Today, one of the original Michtom bears is in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
Photo: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center.

Reporting for Duty

g.i. joe action figures

In 1964, Hasbro, Inc. introduced G.I. Joe: America’s Movable Fighting Man. Reportedly, Hasbro designers borrowed guns and rifles from the National Guard and even asked generals for top-secret materials in order to get all the details right! The company originally created three prototypes of their fighting man: Rocky the marine, Skip the sailor (not to be confused with Barbie’s sister Skipper), and Ace the pilot. Later, they settled on the universal name of G.I. Joe. The G.I. stands for “Government Issue,” a generic term for U.S. soldiers.

Joe premiered with a version for each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces: Action Soldier, Action Sailor, Action Pilot, and Action Marine. A very lucky little boy once owned T/m’s 1964 Action Sailor #7600 and many of the uniforms, weapons, and equipment (check them all out on T/m’s website). All of the accessories were interchangeable, which may explain why our Joe is photographed in the last outfit his owner dressed him in: Action Marine uniform #7710.

Fame Game Winners

toy hall of fame inductees

The votes are in and the advisory committee has spoken: the 2015 Toy Hall of Fame Inductees are… drum roll please… puppet, Twister, and Super Soaker! Winning out over 9 other toys, this year’s group represents different types of play: imaginative, active, and outdoor fun. The toys also hail from different periods ranging from ancient times to the 1980s.

Stringed and hand puppets are among some of the oldest toys inducted into the Hall of Fame. Puppets can be found in nearly every culture dating back thousands of years; Plato and Aristotle even wrote about them in ancient Greece! The polka-dotted game of Twister has somewhat of a checkered past. When it debuted in the mid-1960s, Sears refused to carry it due to its “racy” nature. Until, that is, Johnny Carson and Eva Gabor famously played the game on The Tonight Show in 1966—and the game’s sales skyrocketed. Super Soaker was invented when a NASA scientist tinkered with the power of pressurized air using a PVC pipe and a soda bottle. Marketed for the first time in 1990, 27 million Super Soakers were sold over the next three years. Think this year’s inductees are all wet? Nominate your favorite toy for next year’s competition!
Photo courtesy of The Strong®, Rochester, New York.

Let’s Play House

dollhouse exhibit

The dollhouse is one of the most popular and enduring toys of all time. Why you ask? Because it fulfills so many needs: creativity, invention, psychological exploration, and self-discovery. Let’s Play House explores the collection’s dollhouses and the little girls that played with them, including Mamie Burt and Josephine Bird. These nineteenth-century homes are from the great age of dollhouses. During this period, affluent parents commissioned the houses as a training tool for their daughters’ future roles as wives, mothers, and household managers. That’s some big shoes to fill!

By the twentieth century, dollhouse play focused more on imagination than household management (thank goodness!). The museum’s Tynietoy dollhouse is now on display with recent acquisitions to the collection, including a 1974 Fisher-Price Play Family “A” Frame and a 1950s Louis Marx and Company “L” Shaped Ranch Dollhouse complete with a swimming pool!

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