Monday, September 21, 2009

Wooly Willy

Introduced in 1955,Wooly Willy is a classic. "He has a magnetic personality and you can change his character with the wand."
Wooly Willy was born at the Smethport Specialty Company in Smethport, Pa. During world war two, all toy production stopped as the materials were only available for war use.
Smethport Specialty became R.W. Herzog and was a subcontractor for Sylvania Co. supplying mica insulators for radio tubes. (I bet you remember radio tubes) These tubes were used in proximity fuses, a device to control the height of a bomb explosion. Millions of these insulators were produced at the facility.
After the war, mica insulator production continued, but only for civilian use. As materials became available, toy production continued.
In 1955, James Herzog discovered that dust from magnetic grindings could be used for magnetic drawings. Thus, Willy Wooly was born. Lenonard MacKowski, an artist, designed the display cover. He often hid his name in the art.
In the beginning, there wasn't a toy buyer who would purchase this new toy. Finally, a buyer from the G.C. Murphy chain agreed to buy 6 dozen to prove it wouldn't sell. He was wrong , the toy sold out and he then ordered 12,000 more, which sold out in a few weeks.
Wooly Willy, being the toy of choice and for just twenty nine cents, you could play with one of the most popular toys made between 1950-1980.
The demand for the drawing sets exploded to include colored hair. The company then moved to Magnetic Avenue and built a new facility where it continues today.


Anonymous said...

Did you know that the original Wooly Willy can still be purchased at Cracker Barrel restaurants across the United States?

In addition Wooly Willy has gone digital via the iPhone and the iPod touch. You can now draw Wooly Willy magnetic hair shavings such as mustaches, beards, eyebrows and other hairy features on Wooly Willy or any image of your own. Try it out!

Jai said...

I loved Wooly Willy!.. Take me to the Cracker Barrel!

Joy said...

I can't believe all these things you keep coming up with! I had Wooly Willy! Loved him! I got him for a gift when I was in the hospital at age 7 having my tonsils taken out. great 'quiet'gift.