In 1933, brothers Cleo and Noah McVicker of Kutol Products, a soap company in Cincinnati, Ohio, invented a doughy wallpaper cleaner that could be rolled over the decorative paper to remove soot stains caused by coal furnaces. When the advent of oil and gas furnaces made coal furnaces obsolete, sales of the wallpaper cleaner plummeted. In 1949, Cleo’s son Joseph McVicker took over the floundering company.
In 1954, McVicker’s sister-in-law Kay Zufall, who ran a nursery school in New Jersey, came across an article in a teacher’s magazine that suggested using Kutol wallpaper cleaner as modeling clay for kids. She let her students play with the pliable compound and invited her brother to the school to witness children playing with his product. Realizing that his invention doubled as a soft, reusable modeling compound for children, McVicker renamed his company Rainbow Crafts and instructed his uncle Noah McVicker to mix up a nontoxic batch of cream-colored wallpaper cleaner with an almond scent.
Zufall and her husband Bob suggested the name “Play-Doh,” and McVicker began marketing the product as a children’s toy rather than a wallpaper cleaner.
First sold and demonstrated in 1956 in the toy department of Woodward & Lothrop department store in Washington, D.C., the original cream-colored Play-Doh, packaged in a twelve-ounce cardboard can, became an immediate hit.
In 1957, the Rainbow Crafts Company introduced Play-Doh in blue, red, and yellow. Three years later, the company introduced the Play-Doh Fun Factory.
In 1965, General Mills bought the Rainbow Crafts Company, folding Play-Doh into its Kenner Toy Company in 1970. The Tonka Corporation purchased Kenner in 1987, and four years later, Hasbro acquired Tonka and transferred Play-Doh to its Playskool division.
The patent for Play-Doh explains how Play-Doh is made: “We are unable to state definitely the theory upon which this process operates, because the reactions taking place in the mass are complicated.”
Click here to see the patent for Play-Doh (United States Patent No. 3,167,440) on the United States Patent and Trademark Office website.
One of the most recognized scents in the world is the smell of Play-Doh.
The Play-Doh boy, created in 1960 and pictured on every can of Play-Doh, is named Play-Doh Pete.
In 1986, the cardboard Play-Doh can, used for thirty years, was replaced with a tight seal, easy-to-open plastic container to ensure the modeling compound a longer life.
Kids eat more Play-Doh than crayons, fingerpaint, and white paste combined.
The formula for the original Play-Doh still remains top secret.
If rolled together, all the Play-Doh manufactured since 1956 would make a ball weighing more than 700 million pounds.
More than two billion cans of Play-Doh have been sold since 1956.
If all the Play-Doh made since 1956 was squeezed through the Fun Factory, it would make a snake that would wrap around the earth nearly 300 hundred times.