5 Influential Toys Invented In The 1930s

According to a recently published article in Time Magazine here are 5 of the most influential toys that debuted in the 1930′s.

Buck Rogers Rocket Pistol

buck rogers pistolFirst sold in 1934, the Buck Rogers rocket pistol was the first ray gun ever produced. Fashioned after the weapon carried by the fictional Buck Rogers comic-book character, the rocket pistol was straight out of the future. Buck Rogers was introduced in a 1928 issue of Amazing Stories as a World War I hero who spent nearly 500 years in a state of suspended animation after being exposed to radioactive gas and wakes to become a full-fledged superhero with a futuristic weapon. Like its fictional counterpart, the toy pistol made a zapping sound; manufacturers went on to produce multiple versions during the decades-long popularity of the character.

Stuffed Mickey Mouse

In 1928, Mickey Mouse made his film debut in Steamboat Willie, the world’s first synchronized-sound cartoon. Created by emerging filmmaker Walt Disney, Mickey would soon become the iconic face of childhood. In 1930, a woman named Charlotte Clark was commissioned to create the first stuffed Mickey Mouse doll, and much to Disney’s delight, it became an instant must-have for children across the U.S. It was just the beginning for Mickey, who would go on to star in countless animated features and movies as well as Disney’s international line of theme parks and video games and toys.

Finger Paints

Now synonymous with tiny handprints adorning bulletin boards around the globe, finger paint was first used in art education in 1931. American teacher Ruth Faison Shaw was in Italy when she developed a system that not only would teach kids about art but could also act as a technique for child therapy, a cause Shaw devoted her life to. In her 1934 book Finger Painting, a Perfect Medium for Self-Expression, Shaw wrote that adults should let children be children, even if it meant letting them make a mess. The theory was embraced by educators, and in 1936, the painting technique reached massive popularity and Shaw finger paints and paper were being produced by the Binney & Smith Co., owned by the inventors of the Crayola crayon. Finger painting peaked in the 1930s during the progressive education movement and was widely used in education systems until the end of the 1960s.

The Sock Monkey

The Nelson Knitting Co. of Rockford, Ill., may not have invented the sock monkey, but it standardized its manufacturing process somewhat. In 1932, the company added a line of socks whose red heels assured their customers that they were indeed purchasing original “Rockfords.” When worn out, the socks were then deployed as playthings by American mothers who made stuffed monkeys out of them, using the red heel as a mouth. Hearing about these enterprising homemakers and seeing great promotional opportunity, the Nelson Knitting Co. began including a sock-monkey pattern with every pair of socks.

Army Men

In 1938, the Bergen Toy and Novelty Co. began selling an inexpensive line of minuscule, monochrome plastic soldiers. The 2-in. American figures were produced in U.S. Army green and molded in a variety of action poses — a little boy’s war fantasy come true. Sold in large plastic bags, demand for the little green men rose in the 1950s thanks to a boom in plastics manufacturing and a lead-poisoning scare that made the metal versions less appealing. Soon the company was manufacturing enemy forces too: German troops were molded in grey, Japanese forces in yellow. Though the little warriors have undergone several changes over the years, their most famous identity is as World War II–era soldiers with “pod feet” attached to keep them standing during battle.

You can view the original article in it’s entirety here.


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