TOY TIMELINE

Today’s children might very well be playing with some of the same toys that you, your parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents played with.

We invite you to travel through the timeline below to learn about some of the many toys that have been entertaining youngsters over the past 6,000 years.

2012 ANNIVERSARIES

Every year, hundreds of toys celebrate significant anniversaries. Below is a selection of those toys marking milestones in 2012. 


ANCIENT TIMES

DATE

TOYS

4000 B.C.

A Babylonian board game is played that was probably an ancestor of chess and checkers.

3000 B.C

The first game resembling backgammon is played in Ancient Samaria. Stone marbles are first used in Egypt.

2000 B.C.

Egyptians begin to play a game that resembles modern-day checkers.

Egyptians make dolls from string, fabric and paper.

The first iron skates are used in Scandinavia.

1000 B.C.

Kites appear in China. Stone Yo-Yos begin to be used in Greece.


1800s (BY DECADE)

DATE

TOYS

1840 - 1879

The first American doll maker is granted a patent and dolls begin to be mass-produced in America for the first time.

“The Mansion of Happiness,” the first commercially produced board game in the United States, is invented by Salem, Massachusetts native S.B. Ives.

A westernized version of the Indian game Parcheesi is introduced in England under the name “Ludo.” Parcheesi remains the oldest continually marketed American toy that dates back to 300 A.D.

Milton Bradley invents a game he calls “The Checkered Game of Life.”

Alphabet Blocks become favorites and help children learn their alphabet the old-fashioned way.

Margarete Steiff creates her first stuffed animals, and turns her hobby into the beloved Steiff bears collection, treasured the world over.

1880 - 1889

Three young brothers begin making high-quality wooden toys in Osby, Sweden, and the BRIO corporation is born, taking its name from the Brothers Ivarson of Osby. BRIO introduces the first Wooden Figure-8 Train Sets.

The first BB gun is created. The BB gun is a descendant of the cap gun, which was invented soon after the Civil War, when some shotgun manufacturers converted their factories to make toys.

The speaking doll, which had first been invented by Johann Maezel in 1820, is improved when Thomas Edison combines his phonograph technology with a doll, allowing it to speak.

Mah Jongg, named for a Chinese word meaning “sparrow,” originates in the Ningbo area of China.

The Flexible Flyer sled is introduced.

1890 - 1899

Australian native Lawrence Hargrave invents the first three-dimensional kite.

Gund introduces the first mass-produced musical toys and soft toys.


1900s (BY DECADE)

DATE

TOYS

1900 - 1909

At just 22 years old, Joshua Lionel Cowen creates a battery-powered train engine as an “animated advertisement” for products in a store’s display window. To his surprise, customers are more interested in purchasing his toy train than the merchandise in the display. Lionel Trains is born.

In America, toy bears begin to be called “Teddy Bears” after President Theodore Roosevelt.

Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith produce the first box of Crayola crayons.

1910 - 1919

Former Olympian (Gold, Pole Vault, 1908) and medical doctor A.C. Gilbert invents the Erector Set, a motorized toy made of steel parts.

Charles Pajeau develops a toy similar to the Erector Set, but designed for younger children, called Tinker Toys.

Eagle Rubber starts to manufacture rubber toy balloons.

Johnny Gruelle, a newspaper cartoonist, begins to sell Raggedy Ann dolls based on one he had made for his daughter, Marcella

John Lloyd Wright, the son of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, invents Lincoln Logs.

1920 - 1929

Jack Pressman creates a play doctor’s bag when his children are afraid to visit the doctor.

Walt Disney creates the Mickey Mouse character. Two years later, Charlotte Clark begins making stuffed Mickey Mouse dolls, and Disney merchandising is born.

The Yo-Yo is popularized in the United States after entrepreneur Donald Duncan sees the toy being demonstrated and buys a small Yo-Yo company for $25,000. Thirty years later, sales of Duncan Yo-Yos reach $25 million dollars.

1930 - 1939

Stacking Rings are introduced and remain a classic infant toy today.

Alfred M. Butts, an unemployed architect from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., invents a word game called the “Criss Cross Game.” In 1948, Butts sells rights to the game to entrepreneur James Brunot, who trademarks the game under the name Scrabble.

Ole Christiansen, a Danish toy maker, begins to manufacture plastic toy blocks that can be locked together in different configurations. The Lego, which comes from the Danish word meaning “play well,” was born.

Sorry! is introduced as a fun and easy way to bring friends and family together.

Monopoly is introduced with its real estate based on Atlantic City’s street names.

William Gruber, a piano tuner from Portland, Oregon, has the idea of mass-producing color 3-D images in a viewer. Introduced before television becomes widespread, View Master is an immediate hit.

1940-1949

Affordable, detailed model airplanes begin to be mass-produced.

Little Golden Books begin delighting children and parents of all ages.

The “Slinky” is invented by navy engineer Richard James, who accidentally discovers that a torsion spring will “walk” end over end when knocked over.

Chutes and Ladders is developed, based upon an old game called Snakes and Ladders that European settlers brought with them to America.

Eleanor Abbott designs Candy Land while recovering from polio in San Diego, California.

Silly Putty is introduced by James Wright, a chemical engineer for General Electric introduced. Silly Putty was a byproduct of Wright’s search to find a synthetic substitute for rubber.

1950 - 1959

With the introduction of the Safety School Bus, Little People as we know and love them today are born.

Two art students discover that vinyl sticks to semi gloss paint. From this discovery, Colorforms is born.

Banking on the idea that children like to play with their food, Mr. Potato Head is introduced. Mr. Potato Head is the first toy advertised on television.

Edward Haas brings the Pez mint dispenser to the United States.

Jack Odell creates the original Matchbox car when he makes a small brass model of a Road Roller and puts it into a matchbox so that his daughter can bring it to school.

Yahtzee was invented by an anonymous Canadian couple, who called it “The Yacht Game” because they played it on their yacht with their friends.

Play-Doh enters the market as wallpaper cleaner. Non-toxic and less messy than regular modeling clay, it is soon recognized that the cleaner makes an excellent toy.

At a Fourth of July family barbecue, Milton Levine dreams up the idea for the first Ant Farm, complete with live ants.

The Tonka truck is introduced by a group of Minnesota teachers.

The Frisbee—named for a metal pie tin originally manufactured by the Frisbee Baking Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut—is introduced by Wham-O.

Elliot Handler and his wife Ruth invent the Barbie doll.

Arthur Melin and Richard Knerr begin to market Hula Hoops after getting the idea from a friend who saw school children in Australia twirl bamboo hoops around their waist for exercise. Merlin and Knerr were actually reinventing a toy that was probably used a long ago as 1000 B.C. in Egypt, and, later, Greece and Rome.

The Risk game is introduced.

1960 - 1969

Etch-A-Sketch was invented by Frenchman Arthur Granjean. Originally named “L’Ecran Magique” it was later renamed Etch-A-Sketch and was manufactured by Ohio Art Company.

Inspired by one of Bradley’s old Checkered Game of Life game boards, game inventor Reuben Klammer designs the now-classic Game of Life.

Hasbro introduces its light-bulb heated Easy Bake Oven.

Stanley Weston creates G.I. Joe, the first successful doll for boys.

Spirograph is introduced at the Nuremburg International Toy Fair.

Elliot Handler, one of the cofounders of Mattel, invents Hot Wheels.

Twister is introduced as the first game invented requiring people to use their bodies as playing pieces.

A new push-pull toy called The Corn Popper is introduced.

Parker Brothers introduces the Nerf ball, a polyurethane foam ball that is safe for indoor play.

Skill and action games revitalized the board game category with Mousetrap, Crazy Clock, Operation, Ker-Plunk, Fascination and Booby Trap.

1970 - 1979

Hans Beck creates his first Playmobil system.

Magnavox introduces Odyssey, the first video game machine.

The card game UNO was launched.

Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax invent Dungeons & Dragons.

Four engineers create Magna Doodle in response to their search for a dustless chalkboard.

Star Wars action figures are marketed in response to George Lucas’s blockbuster film.

1980-1989

Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), a home video game system, is introduced.

Hasbro secures the rights to many changing/converting robot brands in Japan and creates the umbrella name The Transformers. The Transformers toy line is introduced to the United States.

Artist Xavier Roberts introduces his Cabbage Patch Kids into the mass market first through the Coleco Company. Cabbage Patch Kids become the most successful new dolls in the history of the toy industry.

Rob Angel, a 24-year-old waiter from Seattle, introduces Pictionary.

Engineer Scott Stillinger invents the Koosh Ball in an effort to teach young children how to catch.

Teddy Ruxpin—an automated responding bear who can read books aloud—is introduced and takes the country by storm.

A battery-powered, hand-held video game system called Gameboy is released.

1990 - 1999

Toy inventor H. Ty Warner begins to market understuffed plush beanbag toys called Beanie Babies.

Tickle Me Elmo hits stores, causing Christmas-shopping hordes to practically triple in size.

Furby (invented by Caleb Chung) is introduced by Tiger Electronics, and after finding out Furby invents languages, Furby was banned from the Pentagon, fueling even more interest in the gremlin-like creature.

Bass Fishing capitalizes on the growing national interest in the sport, and Radica's handheld game takes the nation by storm.

Build-A-Bear workshop introduces bears you can stuff yourself and the experiential marketing trend blossoms with Build-A-Bear stores across the country.

A new trading card game for teens, Magic the Gathering, from Wizards of the Coast, becomes an overnight success with competitive tournaments across the nation.
the UK-born Teletubbies arrive in the U.S. and toddlers can't get enough of these over-sized plush characters with televisions embedded in their bellies.

The Leapfrog LeapPad reading system is launched and within two years, catapults to the top of the toy lists at every retailer in the nation, marking the first time an educational toy has achieved such success.

The Cranium Game is introduced exclusively at Starbucks, creating an overnight word-of-mouth success story. After 18 months, the game is the #1 item on Amazon.com for games and toys.

X-Concepts started a new craze for finger skateboards in April, 1999, and by year-end have amassed over $60 Million in sales.

By 1999, Pokemon grows the U.S. toys and games market by at least 10% in every category of toys it touches, positively impacting overall industry sales.


2000s

DATE

TOYS

2000-2009

Bey-Blade spinning tops are imported from Japan, and Hasbro is overwhelmed by the enormous demand, and struggles to keep up, as kids embrace the product  nationwide. 

Poo-chi was one of a litter of about a dozen robotic dogs introduced at ToyFair in 2000, and reigns as top dog by year-end, creating another Tiger Electronics success story. 

Crayola, in response to mom's requests for no-mess crafts creates Color Wonder,  colorless paints that react to special paper.

Drawing on the skateboard trend, the Razor Scooter becomes an instant success with the addition of a  patented long handle to enable easy steering. 

Ugly Dolls plush are created from a sketch by David Horvath, and initial interest from friends builds a new plush category with intergenerational appeal. 

In 2001, the Bionicle brand of LEGO construction action figures launched with a strong website backstory, and by year-end, escalating sales volume challenged established action figure brands. 

WebKinz started the online offline play pattern, with a traditional plush product that had a secret code that launched special online surprises for kids. 

Eyeclops Bionic Eye introduced by JAKKS Pacific, a hand-held electronic microscope for kids that uses the television as a viewer,  sparks a revitalized interest in science and discovery toys.