Amazing Silly Putty

Silly Putty - It bounces, breaks, stretches, and bends and can even pick up newspaper print. It can flow like a liquid in the right circumstances offers hours of creative play. It’s packaged in an egg to prevent it from drying and has a rather identifiable scent that many people associate with childhood.

Silly Putty would not have been invented if it weren’t for the rubber shortages caused by World War II. During the war, rubber was so valuable that it was rationed. Rubber was needed for the war efforts to produce tires, aircraft parts, boots, gas masks and more. Because of the high value of rubber and short supply, researchers spent countless hours trying to develop a rubber alternative.

The result to these efforts was what we now know as Silly Putty. Though not quite the rubber alternative researchers were hoping for, the silicon-based substance wound up being a cheap and wonderful toy that helped lift the spirits of children at a time when it was desperately needed.

Like most inventions, there is some contention when it comes to who should receive credit for the creation. Early Warrick has been credited as the inventor, as has Dow Corning, Harvey Chin and James Wright. There is some belief that multiple people invented Silly Putty independently, and at around the same time. The substance is made by reacting boric acid with silicone oil to create a unique material that transcends traditional properties of solids, liquids and semi-solids.

Silly Putty

Silly Putty is non-toxic and will bounce when dropped. It can stretch much further than rubber, is mold-resistant and has a very high melting temperature. It can also break when struck suddenly. Because of this, the putty was not deemed a good alternative to traditional rubber as researchers had hoped.
Fortunately, an enterprising toy store owner named Ruth Fallgatter heard about Silly Putty and recognized its potential. She contacted a market consultant by the name of Peter Hodgson to help her sell the putty. It did not do well in her toy store and Fallgatter abandoned her efforts to market it. However, Hodgson didn’t give up. Already $12,000 in debt, he borrowed another $147 to buy a batch of plastic eggs and some putty. He dubbed the putty-filled eggs Silly Putty. Silly Putty was mentioned in a New Yorker article and sales skyrocketed.

Silly Putty was a best-selling toy for a while until the Korean War nearly put Hodgson out of business. Silicone was a main ingredient in silly putty and was rationed during the war. The business suffered greatly and nearly had to shut down until the restriction on silicone was lifted and production could resume.

Silly Putty Toys

Today, Silly Putty is a pop culture icon. It is a toy that nearly every child has played with and it still only costs about $1 for 1 plastic egg. There is no right or wrong way to play with the putty and that flexibility is part of the product’s appeal. Silly Putty is sold worldwide and has even gone to space with the 1968 Apollo 8 mission. After the death of Peter Hodgson, the rights to Silly Putty were acquired by Crayola. Annual sales exceed 6 million eggs. Silly Putty also enjoys a place of honor in the National Toy Hall of Fame.

Play-Doh

 Play-Doh comes in a rainbow of colors and is inexpensive to buy. Since it was first marketed to kids, Play-Doh has enjoyed immense popularity.

 

Play-Doh has an interesting history. The compound was originally created in the 1930s and was marketed as a wallpaper cleaner. The semi-tacky surface of play dough easily removed dirt, dust and grease from wallpaper without leaving any residue behind. The original recipe used flour, water, salt, boric acid and mineral oil. However, children soon got hold of the cleaning mixture and began using it for imaginative play. Parents liked that it was non-messy, inexpensive and fun for kids. The makers of Play-Doh realized the potential, added color and began selling to children. By the mid-1950s, Play-Doh found its way into the Cincinnati school system and was being used as an educational toy.

Play doh

 

Play-Doh has an interesting market niche. It’s nostalgic, but modern. It’s collectible, yet disposable. For less than a buck you can get a tub of the colorful compound and create anything you can imagine. There are play sets that go with Play-Doh so you can create ice cream or hair or just about anything else you can think of. The people that collect Play-Doh (as strange as they may seem), will pay a lot of money on auction sites like eBay for the original accessory sets or even some of the more modern limited edition sets.

Regardless of how you classify Play-Doh in terms of modern or nostalgic or anything in between, the doughy mixture remains one of the most popular toys in the world. Not only is it a toy that parents buy for their kids, it’s also a toy that schools buy by the ton. Play-Doh can be used to foster imaginative play or to teach lessons about everything from fractions to fine art. Play-Doh is obviously non-electric, but more impressively, so are the play sets that go along with it. For parents that try and force their kids to unplug from time to time, Play-Doh is a top contender in the toy aisle.

 

Of course, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. Almost every kid knows the crushing heartbreak of opening a tub of Play-Doh that wasn’t quite sealed right and finding a dry brick of crushed dreams. You see, if Play-Doh isn’t sealed perfectly, it quickly dries out and becomes an unusable (and quite sharp) mass of color. For parents, it’s wise to keep a couple backup tubs of it handy for such an emergency.

 

Because Play-Doh is so cheap to buy and so much fun to play with for kids of all ages, it’s likely that it will continue to be one of the top selling toys of all time. Kids growing up today will likely look back and tell their own kids about how they used to shape the dough into fake hamburgers, loch ness monsters and more. It’s remarkable to think that what was once a wallpaper cleaner has become such an iconic part of childhood.

 

Mr. Potato Head

Mr. Potato Head is a plastic toy that is shaped to look like a potato. It includes several pre-made holes where plastic eyes, ears, shoes, hats, noses, mouths and arms can be attached. The customizable toy was invented by George Lerner in 1949 and began production by Hasbro in 1952. Over the years, several versions have been released with varying accessories.

potato head

 

There are few people that have been born in the last 50 years that don’t know what Mr. Potato Head is. The childhood staple has been released dozens of times in standard and limited edition kits. The kits contain eyes, noses, mouths, shoes, hats and more. By mixing and matching pieces, kids can create limitless combinations for imaginative play.
I remember spending countless hours playing with Mr. Potato Head. My parents loved it and they encouraged me to play with it. At the time, I thought they liked seeing the combinations I could come up with. Looking back, I know they just liked because it didn’t light up or make noise.

One of the selling features of Mr. Potato Head was that you could store the parts in the back. There was a trap door in the rump that would open for easy access. Unfortunately, the hinges weren’t of great quality and I can remember the door popping off almost constantly. The idea was that kids could put their own toys away because the trap door was easy to open. That would teach them responsibility. In reality, it was just one more thing mom had to constantly fix for me.

 

Mr. Potato Head came in a variety of styles over the years. There was a regular version with generic accessories, a Toy Story edition and even a Mrs. Potato Head. You could purchase boat trailers, cars and other embellishments to give your potato a luxurious life. Mr. Potato Head even made a cameo in several movies. There was a brief television show called The Mr. Potato Head Show that debuted in 1998, but the pilot season was never picked up. Mr. Potato Head is still a quasi-celebrity and enjoys a balloon in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

 

Mr. Potato Head also enjoys great popularity in preschool classrooms. The toy makes a great first lesson on anatomy. Kids can learn through play by naming the parts as they put them on the toy. The convenient in-doll storage makes Mr. Potato Head hard to pass up for a lot of teachers.

 

Despite the lack of electronics and the length of time that Mr. Potato Head has been on the market, the toy continues to demand top dollar. Sets frequently retail for $20 or more and parents readily pay as a way to connect with their own childhoods and give their kids a little bit of the carefree childhoods they remember.