Baby Boomers at Play

Posted on November 10th, 2011 in 1950s,Fads & Toys,Pop Culture,Television by Terry Hamburg

The product that became Play-Doh was used originally to:

Clean wallpaper
Caulk bathtubs
Fill nail holes
Plug ears

One of the early Play-Doh cans

It became the best selling and longest lasting baby boomer “toy,” as popular today (and likely tomorrow) as when first introduced in 1956. This fad had “legs.” There’s hardly a kid in the world who doesn’t know Play-Doh. Simplicity is the secret to its success.

Kutol Products, a Cincinnati soap company, manufactured a pliable, putty wallpaper cleaner. The owner’s nephew discovered that the product was used by local nursery school youngsters to make Christmas ornaments.

Joe McVicker saw a baby boomer goldmine. He formed a new company to promote his vision and unveiled it a school supply manufacturer’s convention. A Washington, D.C. department store was the first to dip its fingers. Next year, Play-Doh went big time when New York Macy’s and Marshall Fields of Chicago featured the product.

Kids created endless ideas for Play Doh. Ad execs filled in the gaps.

The big 1950s kiddie television shows were a natural for Play-Doh. McVicker contacted Captain Kangaroo personally and offered him 2% of sales if he would feature it. Deal.

Ding Dong School and Romper Room soon jumped on the bandwagon. Sales soared to $3 million in 1958. In current values, you can add at least a 0 after the 3. A pop culture empire was born.

Click to watch a 1970s TV commercial→ Madison Avenue Play Doh

In the 1960s, the empire became global, exporting to Western Europe. In its first 50 years, the modest putty sold 2 billion cans in 75 countries.

For the 50th anniversary, Play-Doh issued commemorative sets and an old Play-Doh scent as a cologne. Baby boomers dabbled it up.

Trivia Factoids

The ingredients are not a secret formula: water, a starch-based binder, retrogradation inhibitor, salt, lubricant, surfactant, preservative, hardener, humectant, petroleum additive, borax, fragrance and color.

A replica of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello has been constructed with more than 2500 bricks of Play-Doh.

Baby Boomer Trivia Questions

After Barbie, the most popular 60s doll was:

Chatty Cathy
Besty Wetsy
Jackie Kennedy

Charles Schultz, the creator of Peanuts, reluctantly accepted that name for his comic strip. He had wanted:

Little People

Answers at end of post

Today in Baby Boomer History

The television debut of Sesame Street: 1969


Chatty Cathy was the undisputed #2 best-selling doll of the 1960s.

Charles Schultz fancied the title Little People for his cartoon strip, but was talked out of it by his publisher.

Share...Email this to someonePrint this pageShare on FacebookDigg thisShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponTweet about this on Twitter

Post a comment