Emily Ruby, Curator, Heinz History Center:
The 1970s living room you see here is also based on another Barbie playhouse. In the 1970s, more women joined the workforce and toys became a little less gender specific. We had things like the McDonald’s Familiar Places play set and the Johnny Horizon Environmental Test Kit that could be marketed to both boys and girls. The 1970s also saw the first Earth Day and with an increased awareness of the environment, kids were able to participate in this.
In the 1970s, there was an increased concern with what was on television and being marketed to children. Pittsburgh’s own Mister Rogers debuted in 1968 and he refused to have commercials advertising toys during his show. In November of 1969, Sesame Street debuted and it became one of the most popular shows of the 1970s for children. Because of this, many toys were produced based on the Sesame Street characters.
You can’t mention toys of the 1970s without mentioning “Star Wars.” Not only were they popular toys for children, but they also launched the collectible toys market.
The dawn of the computer age changed the future of the toy industry. The must-have toys of the 1970s were computer-based games such as Simon, Speak and Spell, and Atari’s Pong.