Jewish World Review August 26, 2003 / 28 Menachem-Av, 5763

Jeff Elder

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

These inventors were just toying with us | Q: What are the big toys from each American generation, and how were they developed?

A: I tell ya what we're NOT gonna talk about in this column. You won't hear us discussing PlayStations or GameBoys.

Those aren't toys. Those are ... I don't know. Technology.

A top is a toy. A Raggedy Ann is a toy. Rock `Em Sock `Em Robots are toys.

Stuff that beeps and flashes and requires upgrades and is probably plotting with the DVD player to take over the house at night is not a toy. Silly String is good. Silicon chips are bad.

A great Web site run by the Discovery Channel,, gives a fun historical record of some of America's favorite toys.

We'll give you the year and a description of the toy. See if you can name it. Answers at the end.

Donate to JWR

1. 1902 - In America at least, these cuddly animals get a new name, taken from the president. The century's first toy craze is born.

2. 1903 - Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith produce the first box of these drawing implements.

3. 1913 - Olympic gold medalist and doctor A.C. Gilbert invents this motorized toy made of steel parts that kids use to build models.

4. 1914 - Charles Pajeau develops a building toy for younger kids after watching kids poke sticks into the holes of thread spools.

5. 1915 - Johnny Gruelle, a newspaper cartoonist, begins to sell these dolls based on one he made for his daughter, Marcella.

6. 1916 - The son of a famous architect invents these interlocking wooden pieces.

7. 1929 - Entrepreneur Donald Duncan sees these toys demonstrated in Los Angeles and begins manufacturing them. Thirty years later, sales of his product reach $25 million.

8. 1931 - Alfred Butts, an unemployed architect, invents this word game.

9. 1936 - At the height of the Depression, Parker Brothers introduces this land-owning and money-making game.

10. 1943 - Navy engineer Richard James discovers that a torsion spring will "walk" end over end when knocked over.

11. 1949 - Ole Christiansen, a Danish toy maker, begins to manufacture these little bricks that take their name from the Danish "leg godt," meaning "play well."

12. 1952 - Jack Odell makes a small brass model of a vehicle and puts it in a box for his daughter, launching these cars.

13. 1956 - A clean, non-toxic wallpaper cleaner is introduced and kids can't keep their hands off it. Inventor Joe McVicker makes it a toy and becomes a millionaire before he turns 27.

14. 1959 - This doll is introduced at the American Toy Fair in New York City by Elliot Handler, founder of Mattel Toys, and his wife, Ruth.

15. 1964 - Stanley Weston markets a doll (excuse me, action figure) for boys based on a new TV show called "The Lieutenant." This toy is a hit, the show is not.

16. 1966 - Handler invents these cars with low-friction styrene wheels. They can roll 300 mph.

17. 1986 - Artist Xavier Roberts introduces these dolls, each with an adoption certificate and unique name. Although more than three million of the dolls are produced, supply cannot keep up with demand.

18. 1987 - Engineer Scott Stillinger invents this ball from tied-together rubber bands. The ball takes its name from the sound it makes when you catch it.

19. 1993 - H. Ty Warner markets these understuffed plush toys. They are meant to be affordable, so kids can buy them. But they quickly turn into high-priced collectibles.

That's where we stop, a decade ago. That's when our house began to fill up with kids and toys, so I've seen the new stuff. (I often have to step over it.) I know it's high-tech and ingenious.

But today's gadgets can't compare with a balsa wood glider or a Super Ball. Those old toys didn't do everything for you. They required the best kind of special effects, the ones inside a kid's imagination.


1. Teddy bears.

2. Crayola crayons.

3. Erector set.

4. Tinker Toys.

5. Raggedy Ann.

6. John Lloyd Wright invented Lincoln Logs.

7. Yo-yo.

8. Scrabble.

9. Monopoly.

10. Slinky.

11. Lego.

12. Matchbox cars.

13. Play-doh.

14. Barbie.

15. G.I. Joe.

16. Hot Wheels.

17. Cabbage Patch Kids.

18. Koosh Ball.

19. Beanie Babies.

Appreciate this column? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Jeff Elder is a columnist for The Charlotte Observer. Comment or try to stump him by clicking here.


08/12/03: Why do wheels appear to turn backward on film?; showdown over high noon
08/07/03: Wood'n you know it? Money doesn't grow on trees; all we are is dust in the wind
08/05/03: Where have you gone, Calvin, Opus and Cow?; fine feathered friend pecking on itself
07/31/03: How a dashing hero became a notorious traitor
07/29/03: Little red caboose rolling outta sight; From my 'I'll be a monkey's uncle' file
07/24/03: Road scholar: A lesson on asphalt; when identical twins marry
07/23/03: The sweet science of Life Savers' sparks; how do Pop Rocks work? ripping newspaper

© , The Charlotte Observer Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.