Did you know that the original Mr. Potato Heads were actual potatoes? Perhaps your parents knew from firsthand experience, even though they implored you not to play with your food. George Lerner, the inventor of Mr. Potato Head, liked to play with food as a child. His early adventures with fruits and vegetables were the inspiration for the famous plastic adornments, long since attached to potatoes of a less perishable nature.
Lerner, from New York City, first sold plastic facial pieces to a cereal company that wanted to give away the toys in cereal boxes. Mr. Potato Head himself didn't arrive until two years later in 1952 when Lerner partnered with the Hassenfeld brothers to put similar toys into pencil boxes. Lerner approached the Hassenfelds after he saw their success filling the boxes with themed toys. School supplies were the original focus of the brothers but Mr. Potato Head transformed their company, which became Hasbro, into a toy powerhouse,.
One reason for Mr. Potato Head's success: it was the first toy to be advertised on television. The Mr. was followed by a Mrs. in 1953, and the Potato Heads started coming with plastic bodies in 1964. By the time I was playing with toys, Mr. Potato Heads were everywhere. I'm a little sad I didn't think to use real spuds. Oh well. For such a simple but enjoyable idea, Lerner is today's Hero of Capitalism.