I remember a time when playing with your food was fun (I still enjoy playing with my food in fact), and when fashion and function blended together to create a toy unlike any other. I’m talking about the perfectly plastic, spud stud himself – Mr. Potato Head!
And, how did this phenomenon begin? Here is some history on Mr. Potato Head from Wikipedia:
The concept of the spectacular spud, Mr. Potato Head, was born in 1949 by Brooklyn born toy inventor George Lerner, who “came up with the idea of inserting small, pronged body and face parts into fruits and vegetables to create a “funny face man.” This toy caused controversy because most Americans (so soon after the Great Depression) found playing with food “irresponsible and wasteful.”
In 1951, Lerner showed his “funny face man” idea to Henry and Merrill Hassenfeld, the founders of what would become Hasbro, who bought the rights to the toy, changed its name to Mr. Potato Head and began production. Mr. Potato Head was officially born on May 1, 1952. Costing a mere $0.98, Mr. Potato Head contained “hands, feet, ears, two mouth, two pairs of eyes, four noses, three hats, eyeglasses, a pipe, and 8 felt ‘hair’ pieces.” Originally, Mr. Potato Head didn’t come with an actual body, so parent’s had to supply real potatoes for the kits to work.
Mr. Potato Head was the first toy, ever, to be advertised on television on April 30, 1952. Due to his television exposure and rising popularity, Mr. Potato Head sold over one million kits in the first year. Soon after, in 1953, Mrs. Potato Head was added to the spud family and Brother Spud and Sister Yam were soon to follow, though none were as popular as the original Mr. Potato Head. Check out this Mr. Potato Head commercial from “way back when”:
To replace the need for a real potato, Hasbro began to include plastic potato replicas in 1960. Because of the new toy safety regulations by the U.S government, the main potato part of the toy and its accessories was doubled in size in 1975. “This change in size also increased the market to younger children, enabling them to play and attach the facial pieces easily.”
Though Mr. Potato Head has had a long and prosperous career, he made his Hollywood debut with a leading roll in the Disney/Pixar animated feature Toy Story, capitalizing on his ever-growing popularity. Hasbro has recently produced themed Mr. Potato Head sets based on popular media including Darth Tater from “Star Wars” and the Mr. Potato Head Bunny.
A spud for all seasons, Mr. Potato Head is the classic toy that is here to stay. After all, how many of Idaho’s favorite residents do you know who have been inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame? Way to go Idaho!
“Mr. Potato Head.” Wikipedia. October 19, 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Potato_Head