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Flashback Friday: Mr. Potato Head

by Sean P. Aune | January 31, 2014January 31, 2014 11:00 pm PST

You know what says “fun” to kids? Turning fruits or vegetables in to people!

We’re going to depart the land of technology for this week on Flashback Friday because, well, Jon Rettinger told me I could. Besides my love of tech, I’m also a geek through and through, and before landing int he world of technology reporting, I worked in the toy industry as a reporter and consultant. My love of toys and their history still runs in my vein, and it is impossible for me to walk through a store with a toy department without detouring there to see what’s new.

One thing that always makes me chuckle is the trend over the past few years for Mr. Potato Head to show up in all sorts of crazy different costumes. It’s even funnier if you know the original origins of the toy.

Doctor Who Mr Potato Head

From his first release in 1952 through 1964, when government rules concerning toys changed, Mr. Potato Head was a collection of plastic parts with pushpins on the back of them. To make your creation you would get a real potato – or any vegetable really – and place the parts on the food product to make a person.

No… I am not kidding.

You know how your mother always told you as  a child not to play with your food? Well, Hasbro made a whole product line out of the concept. It wasn’t until the regulation change in 1964 did the set start coming with the plastic potato and the safer plastic parts. So for 12 years this “toy” was selling in numbers good enough to not only to keep Hasbro happy, but to even motivate them to film the first ever toy commercial for TV centered around the collection of parts.

While we can sometimes stare in wonder at the way technology has advanced, there are odd histories to so many things around us that we take for granted.

I bet you will never look at a potato in the same way again without wondering if you should put eyes on it.

Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...