Kids play with the food they don’t want to eat. George Lerner, an inventor who figured that vegetables with a little personality might have a better chance, created a set of silly face parts as bonuses for cereal box promotions. Hassenfeld brothers (later Hasbro, Inc.) acquired his creation in 1952. The original package included eyes, nose, mouth, ears—28 different plastic facial features in all—along with a Styrofoam head for kids to practice making wacky expressions. The Mr. Potato Head television commercial, the first ever for a toy, helped Hasbro earn more than $4 million in sales in just the first few months. A Mrs. Potato Head appeared in 1953, followed by brother Spud, sister Yam, various pets, and a car and trailer. Hasbro promoted the happy family in LIFE magazine. A plastic potato appeared in 1964. Already a celebrity, Mr. Potato Head starred in Toy Story in 1995 and Toy Story 2 in 1998. The only licensed toy among the main characters, he spoke with the voice of comedian Don Rickles. This exposure gave the big spud a new life on key chains, mugs, ball caps, Christmas ornaments, and boxer shorts.
Mr. Potato Head