On the 1st May 1952, Mr Potato Head first went on sale. The idea for making a “funny face man” using a vegetable and plastic body parts was first proposed by George Lerner from Brooklyn in the 1940s. In 1951 he successfully sold the idea to a breakfast cereal manufacturer who planned to include the accessories in their cereal packets, but when the Hassenfeld brothers – the founders of Hasbro – met with Lerner later that year they agreed to buy the concept back off the cereal company and to produce and market Mr Potato Head as a toy.
The day before Mr Potato Head was released, he featured in the first ever television advert for a child’s toy that was aimed directly at children. This revolutionary marketing worked, and led to over a million Mr Potato Head kits being sold in the first year alone.
Unlike the modern Mr Potato Head, the original released in 1952 only included plastic body parts and accessories. Customers were expected to supply their own potato for the body itself, something that led some members of the public to criticize the toy for encouraging food waste in the aftermath of wartime rationing. However, twelve years passed before a plastic potato body was included with Mr Potato Head – and all because of government safety regulations. The plastic parts needed to become less sharp, meaning that a real potato was also too difficult to puncture. It wasn’t until the 1980s, however, that Mr Potato Head took on the shape we now recognise.