Classics on Tuesdays – Mr. Potato Head

Mr. Potato Head was almost little more than a forgotten cereal premium. But history has a way of being kind to the classics. And George Lerner was about to make history! During the World War II era, George Lerner enjoyed success as a well known inventor and designer. Just before 1950, he designed and produced a first generation set of plastic face pieces. The push pin shaped noses, ears, eyes and mouth parts could be pushed into fruits or vegetables to transform the food into an endless array of magical anthropomorphic playmates.

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The toy wasn’t an immediate hit however. There was still a World War 2 mentality to conserve resources. Toy companies didn’t think that customers would accept the idea of wasting a piece of food as a child’s toy. But after awhile, George finally sold the toy, for $5,000 dollars, to a cereal company, who planned to use the pieces as a premium giveaway in cereal boxes. But George knew that his new toy deserved a bigger shot. And that shot came in a meeting with a family owned New England manufacturer. Mr Lerner and the manufacture bought back the rights from the cereal company for $7,000.

Mr. Potato Head, one of the world’s most adored “personalities,” was “born” in 1952, at the Pawtucket, RI – based toy company, Hasbro, Inc., and began making history at an early age as the very first toy to be advertised on television. The original Mr. Potato Head contained only parts, such as eyes, ears, noses and mouths, and parents had to supply children with real potatoes for face-changing fun!

Eight years later, a hard plastic potato “body” was included with Mr. Potato Head to replace the need for a real potato. Over the next three decades, a variety of Mr. Potato Head products were sold. He was so loved by children, that he was expanded into additional toy categories including puzzles, creative play sets, and electronic hand-held, board and video games. The vast popularity of Mr. Potato Head also attracted non-toy companies who licensed his image and name to make apparel, accessories and novelty items.

Mr. Potato Head’s appeal to people young and old made him the ideal ambassador for many causes and good-will efforts. In 1987, Mr. Potato Head surrendered his signature pipe to the U.S. Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, and became the “spokespud” for the American Cancer Society’s annual “Great American Smokeout” campaign—a role he carried out for several years. On his 40th birthday, it was decided that he would no longer be a “couch potato” and he received a special award from the President’s Council for Physical Fitness, right on the lawn of the White House! Always one to pass on a wholesome message to the public, he and Mrs. Potato Head joined up with the League of Women’s Voters in 1996 to help out with their “Get Out the Vote” campaign and spread the word about the importance of voting to Americans.

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Mr. Potato Head … a world-class personality whose recognition grew from a simple children’s toy to everyone’s best friend, a speaker of causes, entertainment star and a cultural icon.

History courtesy of Ideafinder.com.

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