1949 – Mr. Potato Head was invented and developed by George Lerner. George Lerner would often take potatoes from his mother’s garden and, using various fruits and vegetables as facial features, he would make dolls for his younger sisters to play with.
When Lerner first approached toy companies with his idea it was quickly rejected. With the war and food rationing a recent memory, it was considered irresponsible and wasteful to use fruits and vegetables to make toys. Lerner finally sold his idea for $5,000 to a food company, to be used as premiums in cereal boxes.
1951- Lerner approached textile manufactures Henry and Merrill Hassenfeld with his idea. The Hassenfelds conducted a small school supply and toy business called Hassenfeld Brothesr (later known as Hasbro). Realizing the toy was quite unique and unlike anything they were currently supplying; Hassenfeld Brothers paid the cereal company $2,000 to stop production and bought the rights for $5,000. Lerner’s idea was then dubbed Mr. Potato Head and started production.
1952- Mr. Potato Head was “born” on May 1, 1952. The original toy cost $0.98. The kit contained hands, feet, ears, two mouths, two pairs of eyes, four noses, three hats, eyeglasses, a pipe, and eight felt pieces resembling facial hair. The original Mr. Potato Head did not include a potato “body”, consumers provided their own potatoes to stick the various pieces into. Shortly after the Mr. Potato Head release, the kits grew in size to include an additional 50 pieces.
April 30, 1952- Mr. Potato Head became the first toy advertised on television. This was the first commercial to be aimed directly at children; before this, commercials only targeted adults. This commercial revolutionized marketing, and caused an industrial boom. Over one million kits were sold in the first year.
1953- Mr. Potato Head grew and had a family which included; Mrs. Potato Head, Brother Spud and Sister Yam. Extra accessories were created for the Potato Head Family; a car, a boat trailer, a kitchen set, a stroller, and pets call Spud-ettes.
1960s- Complaints were made regarding rotting vegetables and sharp plastic ends. With new government safety regulations the company was forced to include a plastic potato “body” to be used in its kits to replace fruits and vegetables.
1975- New toy child safety regulations were introduced by the U.S. Government. Because of this the main part of Mr. Potato Head and its accessories doubled in size. Because of the change in size and the removal of choking hazards the market to sell to younger children increased.
1980s- Hasbro reduced the range of accessories for Mr. Potato Head to one set of parts.
1985- Mr. Potato Head received four postal votes in the run for mayor of Boise, Idaho in the “most votes for Mr. Potato Head in a political campaign” as verified by Guinness World Records.
1987- Mr. Potato Head became “Spokespud” for the annual Great American Smokeout and surrendered his pipe to Surgeon General C. Everett Koop in Washington, D.C.
1995- Mr. Potato Head made his debut in Hollywood with a leading role in the Disney/Pixar animated feature Toy Story. He later continued on to appear in Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 along side Mrs. Potato Head.
2000- Mr. Potato Head was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong in Rochester, NY.
2006- Hasbro also began selling sets of pieces without bodies for customers to add to their collections. Some of these themed sets included Mermaid, Rockstar, Pirate, King, Princess, Firefighter, Construction Worker, Halloween, Santa Claus, Chef, and Police Officer. In the same year, Hasbro introduced a line called “Sports Spuds” with a generic plastic potato (smaller than the standard size) customized to a wide variety of professional and collegiate teams. In recent years, Hasbro has produced Potato Head sets based on media properties that Hasbro produces toys for under license.
Mr. Potato Head has been used to create “themed” characters. Such as Darth Tater, Spud Trooper, R2-POTATOO, Luke Fry Walker, Optimash Prime, Spider Spud, Peter Tater, Tony Starch, and many more.
Mr. Potato Head also been featured in multiple video games including “Hasbro Family Game Night 1, 2, 3, and several Toy Story based video games along with Toy Story Activity Center.