"Fidget Toys" Across The Decades - 30's, 50's, 70's... We all had one!

Sure, the newest fad is Fidget Spinners, but if you think about it, every decade had a "fidget toy".


 1930s YoYo This wooden yo-yo was made by the Duncan Toys Company in the 1930s. It has a green design with a broad red stripe. The seal reads “Genuine Duncan Yo-Yo, Reg. US Pat.” This was an early version of the Duncan Genuine Yo-Yo, produced soon after Duncan bought the trademark term “yo-yo” from Flores. This yo-yo’s seal is reminiscent of the one used by Flores.


1940's - Slinky

 Slinky Fidget Toy in the 40s
The toy was invented and developed by naval engineer Richard T. James in 1943 and demonstrated at Gimbels department store in Philadelphia in November 1945. The toy was a hit, selling its entire inventory of 400 units in ninety minutes.


1950's - GILBERT: Erector Set No. 10051

Through 1932, "Erector" was sold in wood boxes. From 1933 through 1962 the sets would be sold in colorful boxes made of steel. Early boxes were painted red, green or blue but by the 1950s all set boxes were painted red. Later, as the company grew, the area around the Gilbert factory became known as "ERECTOR SQUARE".
Did you know? In 1949, an Erector set was used to build the precursor to the modern artificial heart by Drs. William Sewell and William Glenn of the Yale School of Medicine. The external pump successfully bypassed the heart of a dog for more than an hour.


Another Popular Toy in the 50's - Silly Putty

Interesting Facts about Silly Putty - Another "Fidget Toy" of it's time:

The Silly Putty we know today actually was an accident. 1943, James Wright, a member of the GE research team, was trying various compounds when he accidentally dropped boric acid into silicon oil. He was surprised to discover that the resultant goo was non toxic and stretched further and bounced higher than synthetic rubber, even at extreme temperatures. He also discovered that when applied to newspaper, it lifted the print right off. He called it “nutty putty” and presented his exciting discovery to his supervisors. General Electric and the U.S. War Production Board examined the putty but felt it provided no measurable advantage over synthetic rubber that was already in use. Still, the unusual material with a variety of odd characteristics, was a favorite around the lab.
Two years later, in 1949, a batch of Nutty Putty was taken by a salesman to a Dow Corning Corporation party where Peter Hodgson noticed it was a crowd favorite. Seeing the potential in the product, Hodgson, who was already $12,000 in debt, borrowed $147 and purchased the production rights from General Electric. He named it “Silly Putty”. Since it was close to Easter, he packaged 1oz of the coral colored product in small, plastic eggs and sold the first batch of products for $1 apiece.

 Thirty years later, more than 300 millions eggs of Silly Putty had been sold and Hodgson’s $147 investment was worth $140 million. He was the owner of one of most successful toys of the twentieth century.


1960's - Etch A Sketch

In the mid-1950s, French electrician André Cassagnes conceived the idea of a drawing toy with a joystick, glass screen and aluminum powder. Originally called the Magic Screen, Etch A Sketch became a commercial hit in 1960 when it was mass-produced and marketed by The Ohio Art Co. of Bryan, Ohio. With its twin dials and erasable screen, the toy allowed children—and adults—to sketch to their hearts’ content, obliterate their creations with a shake of the plastic console, and start a new drawing without ever putting pen to paper.


 1970's - Clackers

 Clackers (also called Ker-Bangers, Klackers, Click Clacks, Klik Klaks, Klappers, Zonkers) were a simplistic toy that enjoyed some popularity in the late 1960s-early 1970s. Two colorful acrylic spheres measuring about 2 inches in diameter were suspended from two strings. Kids would get their thrills by swinging them up and down so they banged against each other, making a clacking sound. Clackers were discontinued when reports came out about kids incurring injuries while playing with them. The balls were fairly heavy and could move rather fast, sometimes leading to the acrylic shattering or hitting kids in the face.


 1980's - Rubik's Cube

The Rubik's cube was invented in 1974 by Erno Rubik, a Hungarian architect, who wanted a working model to help explain three-dimensional geometry. After designing the “magic cube” as he called it (twice the weight of the current toy), he realized he could not actually solve the puzzle.

A Rubik's cube has 43 quintillion, or 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 different combinations. However, every single of the 43 quintillion combinations of the 3x3 rubik's cube can be solved in 20 moves or less, according to Google's supercomputers.


1990's - Tamagotchi

The Original Tamagotchi, also known as P1 or P2 depending on the version, was the first Tamagotchi toy produced. It was developed and shipped in fall of 1996, produced only in small numbers, as Bandai had not anticipated much. However, the toy become a sensation overnight, launching a franchise that continues to this day. A second generation edition, also known as the Shin Tamagotchi/New Species Tamagotchi in Japan, was produced not long after. It is a slightly harder version of the original, featuring new characters.


So, the next time you shake your head at these new "fidget toys", (me included) remember the toys you had as a kid. :-)

Read more:

Fidget toys: What are they and why are they so popular?


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