Mr. Potato Head Funny-Face Kit

This Mr. Potato Head kit belonged to George Lerner, who invented the popular toy. Lerner had trouble interesting toy companies in his invention in the late 1940s as war rationing still lingered in people’s memories and playing with food seemed wasteful to consumers.

Mr. Potato Head Funny-Face Kit, 1952. On loan from the Smithsonian Museum of American History.
Mr. Potato Head Funny-Face Kit, 1952. <em>On loan from the Smithsonian Museum of American History.</em>
Mr. Potato Head Funny-Face Kit, 1952. On loan from the Smithsonian Museum of American History.
Mr. Potato Head Funny-Face Kit, 1952. <em>On loan from the Smithsonian Museum of American History.</em>

The original kit, introduced in 1952 by Hasbro Inc., could have been called Mr. Vegetable Head, as it consisted of a kit of pieces that could be used on any vegetable from the kitchen. Parents complaining of rotting food, and in particular government regulations requiring the parts to be less sharp and therefore harder to insert into a real vegetable, brought about a redesign of the toy.

On April 20, 1952, Mr. Potato Head became the first toy to be advertised on television and changed how toys were marketed. The kit became an immediate hit, with more than 1,000,000 sold in the first year. In the ensuing years, additional kits and accessories were added to the line.

The company introduced a plastic potato body in 1964. Child safety regulations led to a larger body size for both Mr. Potato Head and his parts. Mr. Potato Head’s fame has only increased in recent years with his inclusion in the popular “Toy Story” movies.

Mr. Potato Head, 1964
Mr. Potato Head, 1964. Hasbro released a brand-new Mr. Potato Head with a hard plastic body and safety-tipped face and body parts. <em>Courtesy of the Minnesota History Center.</em>
Mr. Potato Head, 2016, available at the Heinz History Center museum shop.

Watch Mr. Potato Head take a ride on the History Center’s Liberty Tubes slide in the Great Hall.

Emily Ruby is a curator at the Heinz History Center.

Leave a Reply

« « Clothing the Royal Americans: Part Two | Book Reviews: Spring 2016 » »