Ah, the classics. Toys that almost everybody remembers and that have stood the test of time. In fact, many of these are over 100 years old and are still desired by kids today. So read on to see what you had in the past or what you might want to add to your wish list. But be careful, you might shoot your eye out.
Lionel Electric Train - 1900
The Lionel Manufacturing Company was founded by Joshua Lionel Cowen in 1900 in New York City. Cowen’s first electric train, The Electric Express, debuted in 1901 and was initially designed as a display for toy stores. The train caught on and soon Lionel was manufacturing model electric trains for consumers. By 1906, Lionel was well established as an electric model railroad manufacturer.
3D View-Master - 1939
The View-Master was introduced at the 1939 New York World's Fair, marked "Patent Applied For". It was intended as an alternative to the scenic postcard, and was originally sold at photography shops, stationery stores, and scenic-attraction gift shops. The main subjects of View-Master reels were Carlsbad Caverns and the Grand Canyon.
Erector Set - 1913
Erector was first envisioned by Alfred Carlton Gilbert in 1911. Gilbert was a skilled magician and manufactured magic tricks and magic sets with his existing company the "Mysto Manufacturing Company". The first Erector set was made there in 1913, called "The Erector / Structural Steel and Electro-Mechanical Builder", and labeled as "Educational, Instructive and Amusing". The toy was first introduced and sold to the public in 1913 at the Toy Fair held at the Broadway Central Hotel in New York City.
Mr. Potato Head - 1949
Mr. Potato Head was invented and developed by George Lerner in 1949, and first manufactured and distributed by Hasbro in 1952. Mr. Potato Head was the first toy advertised on television and has remained in production since its debut. The toy was originally produced as separate plastic parts with pushpins that could be stuck into a real potato or other vegetable. However, due to complaints regarding rotting vegetables and new government safety regulations, Hasbro began including a plastic potato body within the toy set in 1964.
Mr. Potato Head is the eleventh best selling toy in history.
Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun - 1930
Throughout the 20th century, Daisy has been known as a company that makes and sells BB guns and pellet youth rifles. Their Red Ryder BB Gun is perhaps the best known and longest production item, which has been featured in many TV shows and movies since its introduction in the 1930s.
Lincoln Logs - 1916
Lincoln Logs are a U.S. children's toy consisting of square-notched miniature logs used to build small forts and buildings. They were invented around 1916 by John Lloyd Wright, second son of the well-known architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Lincoln Logs were inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1999.
Dollhouse - 1917
Today's dollhouses trace their history back about four hundred years to the baby house display cases of Europe, which showed idealized interiors. But in 1917 the TynieToy Company of Providence, Rhode Island, made authentic replicas of American antique houses and furniture in a uniform scale for children. Other American companies of the early 20th century were Roger Williams Toys, Tootsietoy, Schoenhut, and the Wisconsin Toy Co.
Radio Flyer Wagon - 1917
Antonio Pasin started building wooden toy wagons in Chicago in 1917, selling them to area shops. As his business grew he named it the Liberty Coaster Company, named in honor of the Statue of Liberty. The demands for these original wooden wagons dubbed the "Liberty Coaster," quickly outpaced production. Incorporating the mass manufacturing techniques of the auto industry, Pasin began making metal wagons out of stamped steel in 1927.
The Radio Flyer is the fourth best selling toy in history.
Tinkertoy - 1914
Tinkertoy was created in 1914—six years after the Frank Hornby's Meccano sets—by Charles H. Pajeau, who formed the Toy Tinker Company in Evanston, Illinois to manufacture them. Pajeau, a stonemason, designed the toy after seeing children play with sticks and empty spools of thread. After an initially slow start, over a million were sold.
Play-Doh was first manufactured in Cincinnati as a wallpaper cleaner in the 1930s. The product was reworked and marketed to Cincinnati schools in the mid-1950s. Play-Doh was demonstrated at an educational convention in 1956 and prominent department stores opened retail accounts. Advertisements promoting Play-Doh on influential children's television shows in 1957 furthered the product's sales. In 2003, the Toy Industry Association named Play-Doh in its "Century of Toys List".
Slinky - 1943
A Slinky is a precompressed helical spring toy invented by Richard James in the early 1940s. It can perform a number of tricks, including traveling down a flight of steps end-over-end as it stretches and re-forms itself with the aid of gravity and its own momentum, or appear to levitate for a period of time after it has been dropped.
Schwinn Bike - 1895
The Schwinn Bicycle Company was founded by German-born mechanical engineer Ignaz Schwinn (1860–1945) in Chicago in 1895. It became the dominant manufacturer of American bicycles through most of the 20th century. After declaring bankruptcy in 1992, Schwinn has since been a sub-brand of Pacific Cycle, owned by the multi-national conglomerate, Dorel Industries.
Dress Up - c. 1950
Though children have been playing "dress up" for centuries the beginning of dressing as popular pop-culture characters did not begin until the boom in popularity of television. Shows like Roy Rogers which aired between 1951 and 1957 were hits with children and dress-up costumes specifically matching the characters' outfits were marketed in holiday toy catalogs. Today dress-up has evolved into what is now known as cosplay but it's still rooted in the same concept as when the trend began in the 1950s.
Tonka Trucks - 1946
Tonka was the brainchild of Lynn Everett Baker, Avery F. Crounse and Alvin F. Tesch in 1946, but it didn’t start out as Tonka, and they didn’t start out making toy trucks. Mound Metalcraft was the company’s original name – founded 1946 – and they began by manufacturing metal tie racks … boring! Tesch tinkered with some old toy concepts left by their building’s previous tenants and dubbed the toys “Tanka,” which means “big” in Dakota Sioux tongue. The metal tie racks didn’t take off – big surprise – but the toy trucks did, and in 1955 the company changed its name from Mound Metalcraft to Tonka Toys Incorporated.
Toy Kitchens - 1943
The toy kitchen trend began in the UK in the 1940s inspired by the can-do spirit of WWII patriotism. In the US, 1950s advertisers and retailers idealized the kitchen as the housewife's realm, a symbol of fulfilling domesticity. Toy kitchens fostered pretend-based play that reinforced expected gender roles for girls—and introduced them to the culture of consumption. Over time toy kitchens have evolved to closely reflect the cultural norms values of the greater society as a whole.
Roller Skates - c. 1930
In 1863, James Plimpton from Massachusetts invented the "rocking" skate and used a four-wheel configuration for stability, and independent axles that turned by pressing to one side of the skate or the other when the skater wants to create an edge. This was a vast improvement on the Merlin design, one that was easier to use and drove the huge popularity of roller skating, dubbed "rinkomania" in the 1860s and 1870s, which spread to Europe and around the world, and continued through the 1930s. The Plimpton skate is still used today.