I love Play-Doh. I especially love the way it smells. I hadn't played with Play-Doh in years until a few days ago, when I got my hands on a small container of the stuff. I played with it for so long that my hands turned blue. It molds and shapes so nicely, and squeezing it is a great way to relieve stress. And it has that distinctive smell, one that I hadn't smelled in years. I don't know if I played with Play-Doh very much as a child, but I sure wish that I had.
The Play-Doh story starts in 1956. It started out as wallpaper paste, mixed with some other ingredients to create a softer, and cheaper, kind of clay. It was created by a man named Joseph McVicker, who was trying to please his sister's pre-school students, who had modeling clay that didn't work very well. It started off its career coming only in white, and stayed this way for many years. A small toy company named Rainbow Crafts in Ohio began to sell the toy to stores and schools. Soon, a much larger toy company, Kenner Toys bought the compound, and began aggressively marketing it. It originally came only in 1.5 lb cans. In 1957, red blue and yellow colors of Play-Doh began to be manufactured.
What would Play-Doh be without the famous little boy on the logo? His official name is Play-Doh Pete. He was first shown on the can in 1960, except that then he had an entire body -- he wasn't a disembodied head. For the few years before Pete showed up on the scene, the mascot was an elf. But, he lasted only a short time before the first of many Play-Doh Petes appeared. Through the late 1960s, Pete wore a green beret, and starting in the mid 1960s, he had white hair and Play-Doh in his hand. The next Pete appeared in the late 1960s, and lasted the longest. His beret was now red, and his hair blonde. But he still wore the same red smock.
Beginning in the mid 1970s, Pete lost his entire body, featuring just his head floating above the words "Play-Doh." In the 80s, a version appeared that looked a little bit more "3-D." The early 1990s saw Pete's beret turn blue. And now, you can find a character that is completely different from what Pete began as. He has no body, wears a backwards baseball cap, and has spikey blonde hair. He looks like a reject from the Burger King Kid's Club.
Along the way, the various owners of Play-Doh decided to capitalize on the popularity of Play-Doh. They released the Play-Doh Fun Factory, the gadget with the lever that compressed the Doh through a hole, making it into various shapes. This turned into things like the beauty shop, Monster set, various baking sets, and the McDonald's Happy Meal Playshop. These were all just variations on the original concept of the fun factory.
From 1957 to 1983, Play-Doh only came in the same four colors. But, in 1983, four additional colors were added. In 1986, the modern plastic container was introduced (the containers had been cardboard before that). Finally, in 1991, Hasbro purchased the rights to Play-Doh, and they became the official distributor of Play-Doh. They added a variety of new toys to their lineup. They added sparkle Play-Doh, glow-in-the-dark Play-Doh, and scented (differently) Play-Doh. They added a variety of new playsets, as well as a CD-ROM game. There have been a wide variety of tie-ins with other enterprises, such as Taco Bell, Star Wars, and Sesame Street.
Over 700 million pounds of Play-Doh have been sold. At least part of this is because Play-Doh dries out easily if it is left outside of its container. Also, if you accidentally mix two colors of Play-Doh, it can't be seperated.
Play-Doh is great fun to play with. It smells neat (even without the special Doh), and it is fun to just roll around in your hands. When you combine this with all the different playsets that have been released, it is really one of the most fun toys that there is. I heartily reccomend Play-Doh.
- http://www.monkeyinadryer.com/playdoh/boy.html for the info on Play-Doh Pete.