We all know and love the goofy plastic potato known as Mr. Potato Head. But did you know that the toy originally involved sticking plastic facial features with spiky ends into a real potato?
"Any fruit or vegetable makes a funny face man," reads the package to the original Mr. Potato Head, first marketed nationally in 1952. That's right, you didn't even need to stick those facial features into a potato. Any fruit, vegetable, or sibling's arm would suffice!
The toy was invented by George Lerner in 1949 who first sold the rights to a cereal manufacturing company and then bought the rights back to sell to Hasbro after he discovered they were interested.
In its first year Mr. Potato Head reportedly made a whopping $4 million — roughly $35 million adjusted for inflation. It wasn't until 1964 that plastic potato bodies were introduced in some sets, replacing the styrofoam filler that shipped with the toy. But there were still a fair number of sets that had sharp spikes intended for real produce. The 1968 Mr. Potato Head On The Moon was one such toy, imploring kids to use a cucumber for a spaceship. It wasn't until the 1970s that child safety laws outlawed the old-fashioned spiky Potato Head pieces.
By the early 1980s another innovation was introduced: A nifty trapdoor at the bottom of Mr. Potato Head to store his facial features. Mr. Head originally came with a pipe, but had to give up the habit in 1987 when he became a spokespotato for the Cancer Society.
Bonus fun fact: Mr. Potato Head was probably the first toy advertised on television. We say "probably" because so much of early TV (often done live) is lost to history.
Images: 1952 Mr Potato Head via Wikipedia; Mr Potato head on the Moon via Pinterest; Mr Potato interior box via Tracy's Toys