Celebrating six playthings turning 60

By Antoinette Rahn

As you’ve likely noticed in previous issues this year, Antique Trader is celebrating its 60th anniversary. Here you will find six toys that also came on the scene the same year as Antique Trader, in good old 1957. How many of these playthings do you recognize, recall as favorite toys, or currently collect?

Primetime Playthings

Wham-O Frisbee

t’s said this super popular item of all playthings was inspired by the act of college students tossing about empty pie tins – from the Frisbie Pie Company – in the late 19th century. Walter Frederick Morrison modernized the concept in the late 1940s, developing a plastic flying disc coined the Pluto Platter. A few years later the Wham-O toy company, now the owner of the Pluto Platter, gave it a makeover and released the toy as the Frisbee in January of 1957. **The logo of this article (top left corner) features a photo of an early Wham-O Pluto Platter Frisbee, from the collection of Marvin Paul, viewable at www.marvinsflyingdisccollection.com. Some rare early Pluto Platters command hundreds of dollars today.

Fisher-Price Corn Popper 

Combining bright colors, a simple back and forth movement and loud popping noises, the ‘corn popper’ has been a favorite of generations of preschoolers. The genius behind this toy, Arthur Holt, was a successful inventor whose later achievements included developing the electronic process used by VCR’s to ‘record’ programs on tapes, according to Mr. Holt’s obituary, posted by NPR. Mr. Holt sold the ‘corn popper’ concept and design to Fisher-Price for $50; a toy the company would bring to the market in 1957.

“Lady Lionel” Train Set

Nearly 60 years into its operation, Lionel Trains sought to appeal to girls; enter “Lady Lionel.” It was one of many new products the company brought forth in the mid-1950s, to reinvigorate sales, which had seemingly plateaued, according to an article by Patricia Hogan, the curator at The Strong Museum of Play. The set, unveiled in 1957, included a pastel-colored steam locomotive (pink), boxcars (in blue and yellow), a hopper in a lovely lilac, and a caboose (pale blue). It failed to resonate with young girls, and anyone, really. With that, a small number exist, which makes the set an interesting acquisition for collectors.

Two-Handed Pogo Stick

For this toy, which is also seen by some as competitive sporting equipment, 1957 marked a bit of a rebirth. Two German inventors, Max Pohlig and Ernst Gottschall put things in motion in 1920 when they patented the “spring end hopping stilt.” While it garnered interest from all ages, the design was the focus of concern regarding injury to youth. George B. Hansburg eased some of those concerns with his two-handle model. It incorporated the stilt, coiled spring and footpads, and two handles for stability and safety. Sixty years later, the pogo stick (said to be a fusion of the names of the inventors of the single stilt model) is the focus of the extreme sport “Xpogo,” and the subject of a Guinness World Record. In July 2015, Jack Sexty set the Guinness World Record for the most consecutive jumps on a pogo stick, achieving 88,047 jumps.

Madame Alexander Cherry Twins

Although there were likely several new models of dolls produced by the Madame Alexander doll company in 1957, the “Cherry Twins” are particularly charming. According to the book “Dollmakers and Their Stories: Women Who Changed the World of Play,” by Krystyna Poray Goddu, the Cherry Twins were popular playthings into the early 1960s. It was about that same time (1961) the Madame Alexander Doll Club formed. Still going strong, the club members gathered in Richmond, Virginia, June 21-24.

Hula Hoop 

While the modern global popularity of this toy kicked into gear in 1958 when Wham-O masterminds Spud Melin and Dick Knerr improved on an existing model, it was Alex Tolmer’s plastic hoop design, unveiled in 1957, that got things rolling. Tolmer, the founder of U.K. toy manufacturer Toltoys, was called in to evaluate the bamboo hoops an Australian retailer was selling. According to the book “Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them” by Tim Walsh, Tolmer’s company was already manufacturing toy trucks, sand buckets and shovels made of a material that lent itself nicely to the hoop: polyethylene. Toltoys began manufacturing the lightweight and relatively affordable (sold for less than $2) Hula Hoops in 1957, selling 400,000 the first year. These playthings were followed by mad success when Wham-O released its version in 1958. Popularity has ebbed and flowed since, but people continue to enjoy ‘hooping.’

Sources: www.thepeoplehistory.com;
http://www.npr.org; www.marvinsflyingdisccollection.com; www.pogostickusa.com; www.xpogo.com; www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/most-consecutive-jumps-on-a-pogo-stick; http://www.jane-antiquedolls.com; www.thespruce.com; www.boardgamegeek.com; www.gizmodo.com.

COMMENT