Baby boomers are buying back the toys they played with as kids and at the top of the list is Mr. Potato Head owned by Hasbro. Mr. Potato Head (on Amazon.com) dates back to a time when toys were more creative and let children’s imaginations grow. Building sets, plastic cowboys, “erector sets” and a box with plastic parts for making comical characters with a potato, all these helped a number of generations grow in imagination and creativity.
Mr. Potato Head: from cereal box to world famous toy.
Right after the end of WW2, an inventor named George Lerner came up with an idea to use plastics and a potato as a toy. Plastics were refined during the war and now toys were mass produced using these remarkable and resilient chemical creations. The first concept was to produce comical plastic facial features and hands, hats etc. to be used as premiums in cereal boxes. In the early 1950’s all kinds of small toys were included as incentives to get families to buy popular cereals. But Mr. Lerner had bigger ideas and sold the concept to Hassenfeld Brothers toy manufacturers. The new medium of television was gaining ground and Mr. Potato Head was the first toy advertised on TV. Hasbro is one of the largest toymakers in the world and the Hassenfeld Brothers began their business in the industrial city of Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head.
The original Mr. Potato Head used as real potato to do its magic. Potatoes come in all shapes and sizes (like people). Children learned that people are different and creating potato characters opened up imaginations and hearts to diversity and creativeness alike. Mr. Potato Head’s success led to his marriage to Mr. Potato Head (on Amazon.com) and the happy potato couple made many friends. As their fame spread around the world it was evident that not everyone had access to real potatoes and when they did the parts which were attached by pins, caused spoilage. So a generic plastic potato was substituted for the real thing and everyone got to play. Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head became popular cultural icons and other non-toy products employed the cheerful potato-pair as decorative items. In 1992 the President’s Council on Physical Fitness recruited the pair to represent the program to raise public awareness of children’s health and nutrition by granting a special award to the non-couch Potato pair. The happy couple also joined with the League of Women Voters in 1996 to promote “Get Out the Vote”.
Mr. Potato Head gives back.
Mr. Potato Head helped Hasbro on the road to its world leadership in toys. In gratitude the company has become a major philanthropist. Starting with a seed donation from Hasbro, Hasbro Children’s Hospital has made a difference in the lives of many families. Mr. Potato Head has a heart and the hospital has made a genuine impression on its families, staff and a community alike. When a successful business thanks its customers in a way like this, it shows how much something as basic as a potato can have long reaching effects. It all started with an idea that became an American icon: Mr. Potato Head.