The emergence of another possible billion dollar business, based on bottling and selling a natural commodity.
The 50 Year History of Play-Doh
Posted by Davbmn on 05/02/06 at 09:08 PM
2006 marks 50 years of messy and colorful fun
In 1956 a new type of “modeling clay” for children was invented and began popping up in schools and stores everywhere. In 1965, U.S. Patent No. 3,167,440 was granted to Noah McVicker and Joseph McVicker for a “plastic modeling composition”, (which was originally intended to be a wallpaper cleaner) now called Play-Doh. Little did they know that they had created the substance of childhood memories as well as many a childhood meal, unfortunately.
Play-Doh persists as one of the most well known and popular childrens “toys” with over 2 billion cans sold since its invention in 1956. As you attempt to clean your children’s Play-Doh out of the carpet, the car, and the bathtub; take a look back with us at how it all got started.
Originally, Play-Doh came in only one color; off-white and came in a 1.5.lb cardboard can. Joe McVicker of Kutol Chemicals had learned from a teacher that modeling clay used by children in the classrooms was often too difficult for many of the smaller children to manipulate. He remembered that his non-toxic composition he had created as a wallpaper cleaner was easy to manipulate and could possibly work as a substitute for the typical modeling clay the schools were using.
He shipped a box of his cleaning composition to the school and it was a huge hit with both the teachers and the kids. He offered to supply all of the schools in the Cincinnati area with this new material, and after great reactions from those schools as well, his product was showcased at a national education convention.
Word spread like wildfire and department stores began to take a serious interest. Under the banner of his new company “Rainbow Crafts”, it was first sold in the toy department of Woodward & Lothrop Department Store in Washington, D.C. It was the first of over 900 million pounds of the squishy, salty (non-toxic) cans of the recently dubbed “Play-Doh” to be sold over the next 50 years. Early cans featured a happy little elf on the label, doing his best to extoll the virtues of fun with Play-Doh. Soon after, this mascot gave way to the kid dressed as an artist affectionately known as Play-Doh-Pete.
Over the next several years, modifications were made to the formula to improve its ability to impress all of its little fans. A softer, more pliable version of Play-Doh was produced. It was also produced in a variety of primary colors to further its appeal with kids everywhere. The colors made the Play-Doh an even bigger success, as tiny Picassos all over began to mix and match the colorful goo into delightful shades of ugly brown and pukey purple. They also updated their mascot Play-Doh-Pete’s image
In 1986 another change was made as the cardboard can was abandoned for a more cost effective plastic container. The cardboard cans were somewhat flimsy and had a metal bottom that was vulnerable to rust. Plastic seemed like the perfect choice to keep Play-Doh fresh and ready for fun. Play-Doh has also changed hands many times; most recently in 1991 when it was sold to Hasbro and added to their Playskool division.
So what is Play-Doh made of, you may ask? It goes without saying that the top secret formula is a closely guarded secret, so the exact ingredient proportions are not known to the average person. However, it is known to contain, among other things, wheat flour, water, salt, and some sort of petroleum distillate.
Play-Doh has sparked imaginations for half a century now and shows no sign of becoming obsolete. The once monochromatic modeling clay is now available in many vibrant colors sure to catch any youngsters eye. In 2000, Hasbro let people vote on their favorite Play-Doh colors. Over 100,000 people voted and the winners were rose red, purple paradise, blue lagoon, and garden green with many close runners-up to be sure.
In 1996 Hasbro celebrated by offering an educational CD-Rom called Play-Doh Creations. This year Hasbro will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Play-Doh by offering a 50 pack. Hasbro now offers a whole host of gadgets and tools to help children of all ages make their favorite play-doh creation.
If you find yourself stressed out grab a ball of Play-Doh, there is nothing more relaxing than squishing it between your fingers. Need a baby-sitter? Set your child up with a table and some Play-Doh and they will entertain themselves for hours. Play-Doh has been responsible for kids learning their colors and bringing out their creativity for an entire generation. Warren Brown of the Food Networks show “Sugar Rush” has even created a “birth-doh cake” in celebration of 50 years of Play-doh. Happy birthday Play-Doh! Here’s to 50 more…
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