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Sunday, January 27, 2019

Mr. Potato Head

     Some of the most popular toys for boys in the 50s include lithographed tin toy cars, friction cars, die-cast cars, trucks and farm equipment. For girls, plastic mannequin dolls for dressing finally got popular enough for a major toy manufacturer to start making them. This doll was called Barbie. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Other toys included rocking horses, wooden blocks, building toys like Tinkertoys, Erector sets and battery operated cars. 
     The most popular toys in the 1950s were: Play-Doh, Silly Putty, Frisbee, Slinky, Pogo Stick, Hula Hoop, Miniature Basketball, Electric Baseball and Football, Matchbox Cars, Toy Guns & Western Clothing, Roy Rogers Plastic Figures, View-Master, Electric Trains, Dolls and Doll Houses, Gas and Service Stations and Farm Toys/Sets with Equipment and ...Mr. Potato Head. 
     The original Mr. Potato Head is an American consisted of a plastic parts which could be attached to any vegetable...potatoes and cucumbers being the most popular. These parts included ears, eyes, shoes, a hat, a nose, and a mouth.
     Due to complaints regarding rotting vegetables and new government safety regulations, Hasbro began including a plastic potato body within the toy set in 1964. 

     The toy was invented and developed by George Lerner in 1949, and first manufactured and distributed by Hasbro in 1952. Trivia question: What was the forst toy advertised on television? Mr. Potato Head. 
     Over the years, the original toy was joined by Mrs. Potato Head and supplemented with accessories such as a car and a boat trailer. Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head may be best known for their appearances in the Toy Story franchise. Additionally, in 1998 The Mr. Potato Head Show aired but was short-lived, with only one season being produced. Mr. Potato Head balloon has also joined others in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. 
     In the early 1940s, Brooklyn-born toy inventor George Lerner came up with the idea of inserting small, pronged body and face parts into fruits and vegetables to create a "funny face man". Lerner would often take potatoes from his mother's garden and, using various other fruits and vegetables as facial features, he would make dolls with which his younger sisters could play. 
     In the beginning, Lerner's toy proved controversial. With World War II and food rationing a recent memory for most Americans, the use of fruits and vegetables to make toys was considered irresponsible and wasteful and toy companies rejected the idea. 
     Lerner finally convinced a food company to distribute the plastic parts as premiums in breakfast cereal boxes. He sold the idea for $5,000. But in 1951, Lerner showed the idea to Henry and Merrill Hassenfeld, who conducted a small school supply and toy business called Hassenfeld Brothers (later changed to Hasbro). Realizing the toy was quite unlike anything in their line, they paid the cereal company $2,000 to stop production and bought the rights for $5,000. Lerner was offered an advance of $500 and a 5 percent royalty on every kit sold. That's when it was produced as Mr. Potato Head. 
     Mr. Potato Head was born on May 1, 1952. The original toy cost $0.98, and contained hands, feet, ears, two mouths, two pairs of eyes, four noses, three hats, eyeglasses, a pipe, and eight felt pieces resembling facial hair. Parents had to provide their own vegetables into which children could stick the various pieces. 
     Shortly after the toy's initial release, an order form for 50 additional pieces was enclosed in every kit.


     On April 30, 1952, Mr. Potato Head became the first toy advertised on television. The campaign was also the first to be aimed directly at children; before this, commercials were only targeted at adults, so toy adverts had always been pitched to parents. This commercial revolutionized marketing, and caused an industrial boom. Over one million kits were sold in the first year. 
     In 1953, Mrs. Potato Head was added, and soon after, Brother Spud and Sister Yam completed the Potato Head family with accessories reflecting the affluence of the fifties that included a car, a boat trailer, a kitchen set, a stroller, and pets called Spud-ettes. A plastic potato was added to the kit in 1964. 
     Small children were also choking on the small pieces and cutting themselves with the sharp pieces, so in the 1960s, government regulations forced the Potato Head parts to be less sharp, leaving them unable to puncture vegetables easily. 
     By 1964, the company was therefore forced to include a plastic potato "body" in its kit. In 1975, the main potato part of the toy doubled in size and the dimensions of its accessories were similarly increased mainly because of new toy child safety regulations that were introduced by the US government.
     This change in size also increased the market to younger children, enabling them to play and attach the facial pieces easily. Hasbro also replaced the holes with flat slats, which made it impossible for users to put the face pieces and other body parts the wrong way around. 
     In the 1980s, Hasbro reduced the range of accessories for Mr. Potato Head to one set of parts. The company did, however, reintroduce round holes in the main potato body, and once again parts were able to go onto the toy in the wrong locations. 
     In 2000, Mr. Potato Head was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong in Rochester, NY. In 2006, Hasbro also began selling sets of pieces without bodies for customers to add to their collections. Some of these themed sets included Chef, Construction Worker, Firefighter, Halloween, King, Mermaid, Police Officer, Pirate, Princess, Rockstar, and Santa Claus. In the same year, Hasbro introduced a line called "Sports Spuds" with a generic plastic potato (smaller than the standard size) customized to a wide variety of professional and collegiate teams. Since then there has been many other versions.

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