September 1, 2017

Washington Post, if you're going to put up a slideshow of America's favorite toy for each year, beginning with 1952...

... and you begin with Mr. Potato Head, you'd better show a photograph of Mr. Potato Head, as he was inflicted upon us in 1952 — that is, as a collection of eyes, noses, mouths, ears, etc. that had to be stuck in a real potato that you had to find on your own. No plastic potato came with the set until 1964. The whole fun of the thing was that you made a potato into something. And it's not that the company that made the thing wanted to switch to a plastic potato. That was an unfortunate consequence of government regulation:
In the 1960s, government regulations forced the Potato Head parts to be less sharp, leaving them unable to puncture vegetables easily. By 1964, the company was therefore forced to include a plastic potato "body" in its kit. 
Thus ruining the charm of the toy, unless you thought it was funny to put mouths for eyes and an eye for the mouth, in which case that fun wasn't ruined until the 70s:
In 1975, the main potato part of the toy doubled in size and the dimensions of its accessories were similarly increased. This was done mainly because of new toy child safety regulations that were introduced by the U.S. government. This change in size also increased the market to younger children, enabling them to play and attach the facial pieces easily. Hasbro also replaced the holes with flat slats, which made it impossible for users to put the face pieces and other body parts the wrong way around. 
But, as in many things, the 80s corrected for the 70s:
In the 1980s, Hasbro reduced the range of accessories for Mr. Potato Head to one set of parts. The company did, however, reintroduce round holes in the main potato body, and once again parts were able to go onto the toy in the wrong locations.
I know people care about Mr. Potato Head today because of the "Toy Story" movies, but that's no excuse for WaPo using a non-50s photograph to begin its historical slideshow. I notice that in the new Mr. Potato Head, the eyes are fused together into one piece... as if no one remembers that the point of the toy was sticking the parts in one by one. 

32 comments:

campy said...

I blame Trump.

tim in vermont said...

Vonnegut wrote a story about a guy who invented programming for robots that ensured they could never cause humans harm and they must help. He exempted himself. After a while the robots had imprisoned everbody but him in padded cells. One day he injured himself but the robots couldn't help him until he removed his exemption. Next thing you know he is in a padded cell with a toy plastic lathe, because the robots knew he liked to invent stuff and they wanted him to be happy.

Over-emphasis on safety has led to this generation of Hitler Youth/Red Guard and their willingness to trample the rights of others to have their safe spaces. But, like the song at the start of Cabaret goes,the future belongs to them.

tim in vermont said...

The Oompa Lumpa in chief makes them feel unsafe.

Paul from Decatur, GA said...

Sounds like just another case of WaPo having trouble with reality.

FleetUSA said...

And how many complaints were raised about the 50s product. I thought it was fun and repurposed something that was ultimately cooked anyway.

GRW3 said...

Somebody with 3D Printing skills needs to whip up software to make the original type Mr. Potato Head parts. The ones with the spikes you can use or real potatoes. Then release it free on the internet.

richlb said...

They sell a set very close to the original concept at Halloween time for decorating pumpkins.

Roughcoat said...

I'm worried.

bagoh20 said...

Safety is the go-to excuse for most evil.

Communism will give you economic safety.
Fascism will protect you from the outsiders.
Corruption will save you from the little people
Totalitarianism and it's regulations will protect you from yourself.
Hatred will protect you from the vulnerability of compassion and empathy.

Safety will ruin your day, but not on FRIDAAAAAAAAAAAAY!

bagoh20 said...

If I knew that you were supposed to put the pieces into a potato, my little sister would have had a more pleasant childhood.

Laslo Spatula said...

mr. potatohead tattoos

because some people love it THAT much.

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

Early Mr. Potatohead B&W TV commercial

David Lynch probably saw this as a child, I'm guessing.

I am Laslo.

Ralph L said...

Democracy dies in darkness, so we can't use tubers.

Gahrie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gahrie said...

I blame Mr. Potato Head for all the identity confusion going on today with all of that interchangeability. Who wants to bet that Bruce Jenner, Rachael Doziel and Shaun King all had this toy as kids?

rhhardin said...

We lost lawn darts too.

rehajm said...

That 1968 Hot Wheels car isn't form the original 1968 collection either. I cant't identify it but definitely not one from that year...

Michael K said...

Did you notice that the 60s and the1975 both describe periods of Democrat government and, therefore, busybody agencies protecting us against all hazards except communism ?

I remember when the Carter types banned the manufacture of convertibles. Too dangerous if they flipped over.

I actually bought a used convertible thinking there would be no more. Then Reagan was elected.

Gunbunny62 said...

Bring back Major Matt Mason, and while your at it, Klackers, i want my grandchildren to have wrist welts , fidget spinners, pfft.

Ralph L said...

Klackers will put your eye out.

I remember in 3rd grade when the teacher confiscated my yo-yo during recess. What a bitch!

FullMoon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Comanche Voter said...

Ms. Althouse your post on this point reveals the triumph of hope and faith over experience. You actually expect the WaPo to commit journalism and get its facts right?

Unknown said...

Vonnegut wrote a story..

No, that was Jack Williamson and his hall of fame story "With Folded Hands" avaible available here (probably violating copyright).

Williamson lived an incredible life, travelling to his family's new home by covered wagon in 1915. His writing carrer started in 1928 and lasted until his death in 2006. Somewhere along the way he found time to earn a Phd and be a founding influence on "Space Opera" with "The Legion of Space" and Urban Fantasy with "Darker Than You Think". He returned to the themes and setting of "With Folded Hands" several times, and not alwys in ways you might expect.

If Vonnegut comes into the picture at all, it would be with his short story "Harrison Bergeron" (available here) which prefigures different unhealthy aspects of our culture than the Williamson.

Martin said...

Most of the fun with Mr Potato Head was finding really strangely shaped potatoes and then being screwy with where the pieces went.

The first time I saw one with the plastic potato I lost interest, there was no scope to be creative and funny. No play value left.

eddie willers said...

No Colorforms or Vac-U-Form?

Ganderson said...

In a related note the History.com noted the other day the anniversary, in 1959, of Sandy Koufax of the BROOKLYN Dodgers striking out 18 batters in one game. Doesn't anybody check?

Portia said...

In 1959 the Dodgers were in LA. They were in the series that year against the White Sox and they won.

William Chadwick said...

As a child of the Fifties, I find it odd that there are no Davy Crockett or Hopalong Cassidy related toys. The Davy Crockett craze was YUUUUGE and launched a plethora of Crockett related toy guns, faux coonskin caps, Alamo playsets, etc., many but not all licensed by Disney, which launched the craze with their Crockett miniseries starring Fess Parker. Hopalong Cassidy was not as big as Crockett, but there certainly were a lot of Hoppy tie-in cap guns, cowboy suits, etc.

Ganderson said...

Portia- I know that, you know that. You'd think a website called History.com would know that.

Koufax was the first pro athlete to make me cry, when he shut out the Twins in game 7 of the '65 Series.

Darrell said...

My mother didn't like the idea of playing with food.

Marcus Carman said...

I must have been one of the first kids to get the new set. I was major leagued bummed as I wanted to be able to use a real potato. The first lesson to me of how, in the end, the government will go to great lengths to ruin things for you.

Joe said...

What a weird list. It lacks so many provably more popular toys, my conclusion is that it's the product of one person in their fifties, very likely a woman (whose children were all girls.)