I recently learned that like celebrities, toys can find stardom by being inducted into the US National Toy Hall of Fame. “Play-Doh”, “Etch A Sketch”, “Frisbee”, “Lego”, and even “Crayola Crayon”, just to name a few, are famous! You see, famous toys must be widely recognized, be more than just a passing fade, encourage learning, creativity and discovery, and even improve play or toy design. I was thrilled that “Lincoln Logs” claimed 8th and “Tinkeytoy” claimed 15th place.
Inducted in 1998, the Tinkertoy brand is owned by Hasbro Inc., formerly known as Hassenfeld Brothers. Hasbro Inc. is an American multi-national toy and board game company that manufactures most of its products in East Asia and is one of the largest toy makers in the world. Tinkertoy is a children’s construction set that was created in 1914 by Charles H. Pajeau, Robert Pettit and Gordon Tinker. They sought out to inspire imagination in children at play after noting that children had fun simply playing with sticks and empty spools of thread.
The Tinkertoy basics are a wooden spool drilled throughout with holes and sticks of various lengths. Through the years, minor changes in colours and sizes were made, but a standard Tinkertoy set includes wheels, caps, couplings, pulleys, “part w” (a modified spool), and short pointed sticks. Tinkertoy sets were marketed using displays in Chicago, including a Ferris wheel model at one point. More amazingly, Tinkertoy has been credited in the creation of complex machines such as Danny Hillis’ tic-tac-toe playing computer and a robot in 1998 at Cornell University.
Another celebrity toy that is one of my all-time favourites is the Lincoln Logs. Lincoln Logs were inducted into the US National Toy Hall of Fame in 1999, and are notched miniature logs that can be used to build forts and buildings. John Lloyd Wright, the son of an architect, is its inventor. In time, roofs, chimneys, windows and doors were added. The original Lincoln log set provided instructions for Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Abraham Lincoln’s Cabin. Later sets were more elaborate and bigger. As with Tinkertoy, Lincoln Logs are owned by Hasbro Inc.
Unlike today’s popular toys that seem to come with whistles, lights, wheels, motorized parts and so on, Tinkertoy and Lincoln Logs come with nothing of the above. Instead of providing batteries and making sure you have extras, just in case, it is what Tinkertoy and Lincoln Logs does NOT come with that makes these priceless. The user provides the imagination, and each time they return to these toys, their imagination grows a little bit. Little by little, the imagination soon is able to fashion a world unlike the one we really live in. Today’s imagination can become tomorrow’s inventions which may pave the way for a brighter and better future.
Once upon a time, my sister and a seven year old yours truly, lived in a little Lincoln cabin hidden in our enchanted wood similar to Enid Blyton’s. We ate berries, chopped wood for fire, and made friends with the critters. Ours was a simple living where no one could tell us to do what we did not wish to do. Happiness!
If you are a toy enthusiast and should find yourself in Rochester, New York, take the time to visit The Strong where the US National Toy Hall of Fame is. Have fun as there are at least fifty-four (54) toy celebrities to meet. Who knows, maybe I will see you there?