Among the many popular toys that were invented in the 1950’s is Play-Doh. Although we all know it as a modeling compound, Play-Doh actually started out as wallpaper cleaner. It was invented by Noah McVicker of Kutol Products, a soap manufacturer in Cincinnati. Kroger’s Grocery asked the company to create something that could clean coal residue off of wallpaper. After World War II home started switching from coal heat in the home to natural gas, so the need for wallpaper cleaner declined and the company was on the brink of bankruptcy. But in the mid 1950’s Joe McVicker, the nephew of Noah, learned that young children were using it to make Christmas ornaments. It was easier for them to maneuver than clay. This gave Kutol a new use for their product.
In 1955 Joe McVicker took the compound to an education convention for manufacturers of school supplies. A department store in Washington D.C. immediately began selling it. In 1956 McVicker started Rainbow Crafts Company to make and sell Play-Doh. A 3-pack of cans was created and soon Macy’s and Marshall Field’s opened retail accounts. Play-Doh was advertised during popular kids shows and by 1958 sales had reached $3 million.
Play-Doh, now owned by Hasbro, went on to become a top selling product that is available in 75 countries around the world. Between1955 and 2005 more than two billion cans were sold.