Advances in 1950s Toys

by admin - December 4th, 2017

By Victoria Lemire

When most people think of the 1950s in America, they think of politics, the movie stars of the era, and fashion. Many times they do not think of what the common person did in their homes. What did they have for entertainment? What did the children do for fun? Children in the 1950s were ones of a baby boom generation. Considering that there was a rise of babies born in this era, there was also a rise in the production of children’s products that were produced during this time period.

With all of the soldiers coming home from the war, an explosion of babies occurred in the 1950s as these men traveled back to America to try to start their families. With the huge number of babies being born each year, there was a new market of children’s products being created each year. There was an economic boom that occurred and many more consumer goods were released that involved child care. Dunar stated that “…clothing, toys, baby furniture…, larger automobiles to transport growing families, and books on how to care for babies… [are] all reflected from the boom” (2006). Dunar credits the baby boom as the reason why there were so many new products created as well as the change from the rationing world that occurred during World War II.

Children Hula-Hooping in their Yard

With the rise in children came the invention of many new products. Some of these included toy guns, holsters, and spurs, as well as propellor hats, slinkies, silly putty, and Hula Hoops (“Fads of the 1950s”, 2001). Of all of these toys, Hula Hoops were the most popular. The concept of the Hula Hoop was introduced in 1957 by Arthur Melin and Richard Knerr. Over one hundred million hoops were sold around the world. Toy guns, holsters, and spurs were also very popular because of the recent end of the war and the popularity of western radio, television shows, and movies. With this line of advertisement came the rise of action figures that were derived from these shows. An example of this would be Roy Rogers as well as the Barbie doll (“Toys and Games”, 1999). Mattel, Inc. produced Barbie in 1959, and she was the figurehead of the company. Barbie herself has become an important part of the fashion doll market, and has been changed many times to represent the beliefs of the company.

The idea of a violent toy is thought to have originated in the 1950s with the rise of militarized toys. Many boys started buying toy weapons and different army action figures because the end of the war brought home many heroes that were made to be idolized in the eyes of young boys. These toys were the origin of the what parents are still fighting today with violent toys. The video games and toys that we have access to today are an advancement of what was being created in the 1950s. Many people credit violence among children with these toys today (“Toys and Games”, 1999).

The 1950s gave rise to a new wave of toys and enjoyment for children as the attitude of the Great Depression left the country. The United States was filled with nationalism and a love of country that resulted in the attitude of people become consumers, and the advertisement and sale of toys definitely was not excluded from this era.

Works Cited

Dunar, Andrew J. America in the Fifties. Syracuse University Press, 2006.

“Fads of the 1950s.” American Decades, edited by Judith S. Baughman, et al., vol. 6: 1950-1959, Gale, 2001, pp. 271-272. U.S. History iContext,

“Toys and Games.” Violence in America, edited by Ronald Gottesman and Richard Maxwell
Brown, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1999. U.S. History in Context,
IC?u=mlin_c_worstate&xid=548531ae. Accessed 29 Nov. 2017. Accessed 29 Nov. 2017.

5 Responses to “Advances in 1950s Toys”

  1. Jessica Fournier says:

    I like how you wrote about a topic of the 1950s that is not too widely discussed and is still important because of its relation to daily life of people living in this time period. I never had thought about the impact on the toys industry from the baby boom, but obviously it had a tremendous increase for a common necessity for these products. A really interesting point you brought up was about the violent toys and how they could result in violent behaviors of children, which is a problem that is prevalent today.

  2. Meagan Sebastiao says:

    It’s very interesting to compare the toys of the 1950s to the “toys” we have now. In today’s society, it is like pulling teeth to get a kid to get outside to play rather than playing on electronics. You’re completely right in that there was a new wave of toys and fun for kids after the Great Depression left. I also like how you mentioned the idea of a violent toy, because many people do not consider where violent toys come from and how they can be negative.

  3. Sophia Kontoes says:

    I think it’s interesting that the hula hoop was created in the 1950s and is still a fun toy now in the generation. I also found it interesting how violent toys were a controversy back then and are still a controversy now, I experience it first hand when my mom and brother fight over what video games he can and can’t play. I agree with Meagan, it’s rare to see kids outside playing anymore because electronics have taken over, so the topic of toys in the 1950s brings back a much simpler innocent time.

  4. Emily Clemente says:

    I think it’s interesting to see how the baby boom triggered an increase in the production of toys. I am also fascinated by the evolvement of toys since the 1950s. In the 1950s, the technology was not as advanced. Therefore, many children played outside. This is why toys, such as the hula hoop were very popular. However, today there are so many electronic devices that allow children to interact with each other while they play online games. It is much more convenient for children to engage with others online, but some children do still play with toys that were similar to those created in the 1950s, like the hula hoop.

  5. Kelsea Blair says:

    I really liked your last paragraph where you compared how violent toys in the 50’s caused controversy and now violent video games cause controversy today. Like Sophia said above, I experience this first hand because my brother wants to play certain video games that my mom doesn’t want him playing because of the violence. I also had no idea that toys like hula hoops and Barbie were created in the 50’s. I find that interesting because those are toys I had played with as a child. Children today I feel like only play with electronics and its such a different culture even though they’re only about 12 or 13 years younger than us.