Sunday, May 23, 2010

Go Ahead, Play With Your Food!

      In 1949, George Lerner invented Mr. Potato Head and Hasbro distributed the
toy. Originally, it was produced as plastic parts to be stuck into a real potato.
Lerner would take potatoes from his mothers garden, used other fruits and vegetables as facial features and make dolls for his sisters to play with.
His toy idea was controversial with the war and food rationing fresh in the minds of Americans. The toy was considered wasteful and irresponsible. So, the toy companies rejected Lerner's idea.
Later, George sold the toy to a cereal company who planned to use the pieces as a giveaway in cereal boxes. As luck would have it, a toy company, later to be Hasbro bought Mr. Potato Head from the cereal company. This is the start of one of America's greatest toy stories. 
In 1952, you could by the 30 piece set for under one dollar! Imagine that! Mother's were facing a loosing battle. Every kid poked holes and made funny faces in every piece of produce  imaginable. X Box? Nintendo? What's that?
Finally, in 1953, Mr. Potato Head found the love of his life! Mrs. Potato Head was introduced to the world and they had "eyes" for each other at first sight. They became the envy of vegetables everywhere!
The change came, though in the 1960's. Mr. Potato Head became Mr. plastic Potato Head. Government regulations forced Hasbro to round off the points in the face pieces and they just didn't puncture food very well after that. ( I want my Jarts back, too!)  So, now a kid could only put the pieces in predetermined places in the plastic head. Goodbye creativity, hello plastic. At any rate, the line expanded into all sorts of characters, became the first toy advertised on TV and the kids didn't mind. Either did Hasbro.