The toy formerly known as Mr. Potato Head is the latest outrage for so-called conservatives who always look for the latest affront to keep their apoplexy level up. When Hasbro, Inc. announced that after nearly seventy years they were dropping the honorific “Mr.” and “Mrs.” from their venerable toy’s name, Fox News took the story as another example of liberal cancel culture.
Mr. Potato Head was born in controversy.
In the 1940s, George Lerner came up with the idea of inserting pronged facial and body parts into a vegetable to create a funny face. His idea was rejected by toy manufacturers who thought that with Second World War rationing fresh in people’s consciousness, this perceived wasting of food would be offensive.
Finally, Hassenfeld Brothers, a school-supply and toy company, made an offer to Lerner: an advance of $500 and a 5% royalty on every kit sold. Retailing for 98¢—potato not included—a million Mr. Potato Heads were sold the first year. (Hassenfeld Brothers later became “Hasbro.” Get it?)
Annals of Mr. Potato Head:
- 1952 – Mr. Potato Head becomes the first toy advertised on television. Its commercials were the first advertising to be directed at children. Until then, toy advertising was aimed at parents.
- 1953 – Mrs. Potato Head is introduced.
- 1964 – The toy comes with a plastic potato body, obviating the need for parents to provide the potato or other vegetable. Government regulations require the Potato Head parts to be less sharp, thus making them difficult to prick vegetables. Small children were too easily pricking themselves with the sharp pieces and choking on the small pieces.
- 1975 – The Potato Head toys double in size to comply with government safety regulations. That also increases sales as the larger size makes them easier for small children to handle.
- 1987 – As “Spokespud” for the Great American Smokeout, Mr. Potato Head gives up his pipe to the Surgeon General.
- 1995 – Mr. Potato Head stars in a feature role in the animated movie Toy Story. Don Rickles provides the voice.