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Classic Toys = Classic Fun
Kids these days seem to be preoccupied with television or video games. But it was not so long ago that children had to use their imagination and creativity to play and have fun. Parents can bring this ideology back into our homes by turning off those awful machines, going back to basics and bringing back into our homes the classic toys that have entertained and educated children for decades.
With the advent of the “video age,” there’s no doubt that toy companies are feeling small. But some toys stand the test of time and never go out of style, continuing to entertain and thrill children for decades without going unnoticed. Let’s explore some of these classic toys and icons of the toy industry:
Engrave the sketch
Invented in the late 1950s by a gentleman named Arthur Granjean (he called it “L’ Ecran Magique”), meaning the magic screen; in his garage. An Ohio art company decided to use his “drawing toy” and renamed it the Etch A Sketch and launched a successful television advertising campaign in 1960 to promote it.
The response was so great that Ohio Art continued to produce them until midday in 1960. The toys were then immediately shipped to the west coast so people could get their Etch A Sketch in time for Christmas.
Etch A Sketch has entertained over 100 million adults and children in 67 countries around the world. The basic design remained largely unchanged, although Ohio Art offered pink and blue frames in the 1970s, but it turned out that people preferred the traditional red frame. Additionally, the Etch A Sketch Club was founded in 1978 and has an average of 2,000 members worldwide.
For fun, poll your friends or colleagues and ask them how many of them have ever drawn something using Etch A Sketch. Your numbers will be amazing; it was and still is one of the world’s most popular toys!
AC Gilbert was a great man. At the time of his death in 1962, he was awarded 150 patents for inventions used in his products. In fact, he was a talented magician as a boy, and it was this talent that helped him pay his tuition at Yale Medical School. While going to school and performing as a magician, he started Mysto Manufacturing, which sold magic kits to children.
Gilbert eventually graduated from Yale Medical School, but decided to go into the toy business instead of practicing medicine. He was a gifted inventor and chose to entertain and educate children. His most popular invention? Vintage construction toy assembly kit.
In 1911, on one of his many train trips from New Haven (his home) to New York, he watched from the window as workers placed and riveted steel girders for a power line tower. He decided to create a children’s construction kit with evenly spaced holes for passing screws, and he included nuts, pulleys, gears, and eventually engines. Although the British company Meccano sold a similar toy, Gilbert thought his “assembly kit” would be more realistic. His set had more technical advantages, in particular the steel beams, which were not flat, but bent lengthwise to create a ninety degree angle, so that four of them joined together laterally formed a strong, square support beam.
With the first major toy advertising campaign in America, Gilbert began selling the “Mysto Erector Structural Steel Builder” (later called simply the “Assembly Kit”) in 1913, and the toy became one of the most popular construction toys. all the time. It wasn’t uncommon for living rooms across the country to be filled with miniature skyscrapers and buildings painstakingly crafted by young minds. The AC Gilbert Company is estimated to have sold over 30 million sets.
In 1943, a naval engineer accidentally knocked some springs off a shelf while working on a meter designed to monitor battleship horsepower. He wondered how they “walked” instead of falling, and the strange movement of these springs gave Richard James an idea, and an instant toy was born. Its toy:
Richard James then spent the next two years testing and perfecting the best steel gauge and coil to use for his new toy. His wife Betty found the perfect name for this new toy – Slinky; which is a Swedish word meaning traespiral or smooth.
The couple borrowed five hundred dollars, and James designed a machine to wind eighty feet of wire into a two-inch spiral and make their new toy. Sales were slow at first, but picked up after the Slinky was featured at Gimbel’s Department Store in Philadelphia during the Christmas season in 1945. The first 400 were sold within a ninety-minute demo, and a new craze had begun.
Around 1960, Richard James suffered what some called a midlife crisis and left his wife, their six children, and joined a Bolivian religious cult. He also abandoned the Slinky toy he had worked so hard to produce, leaving the company in debt and in ruins. Betty James took over as CEO of James Industries and introduced other Slinky line-up toys including: Slinky Pets, Crazy Eyes Slinky (glasses with Slinky extended fake eyeballs), Neon Slinky, and replaced the original black and blue. Swedish steel with American steel. Additionally, she moved the company’s headquarters from Philadelphia to Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, and launched an aggressive advertising campaign complete with the now-famous Slinky jingle:
“Who goes down the stairs, one by one, And makes a Slinkity sound? Spring, spring, wonderful thing, Everybody knows it’s a Slinky… It’s a Slinky, it’s a Slinky, for fun it’s a wonderful toy It’s a Slinky, it’s a slinky, it’s fun for a girl or a boy”
However, the Slinky is not just an entertaining toy for children. It is used in schools in physics classes to demonstrate wave properties, forces and energy states. The Slinky is still sold today (250 million have been sold to date) and is still manufactured in Hollidayburg, Pennsylvania using the original equipment designed by Richard James.
We’ve looked at the history of three classic toys that continue to entertain children around the world. There is one clear concept that can be derived: classic toys equal classic fun.
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