No Longer a Mr. Potato Head


In 1946, an inventor named George Lerner from Brooklyn, New York introduced a game where children would take stick pin plastic parts and insert them in a potato to create a character. He called the four-piece kit, Mr. Potato Head. The small kit came with a nose, a mouth, eyes and a nose. It was received with mixed reviews. America had just come out of WWII and the idea of using a real potato for a kid’s toy did not sit too well with mothers who had been used to rationing what they had in their pantries to feed the family. The idea was totally contrary to the saying, ‘Don’t play with your food.’  The reality was that as the children played with the kit and inserted parts and took them out of the potato too many times, the vegetable would eventually rot. This was not exactly the best way to keep your child entertained many mothers thought. 

Then in 1952, Hasbro, the future Transformer people, bought the idea from Lerner. Hasbro had been making kids toys since 1923.Their idea was to take Lerner’s invention and add something to it that would stick until 2021. They completed the kit with a plastic potato body with holes in it to accommodate the stick pins in various ways. Mr. Potato Head was officially reborn, repackaged, and reidentified. For 72 years he has been a household name. No kid has not heard of the toy, and no adult has never played with one.

Mr. Potato Head has gone from toy shelves to ‘Toy Story’, and along with his best friend to infinity and beyond. Over the years, the spud has had his own visions of transformation. In 1953, he was given a ‘friend’ named Mrs. Potato Head, who by her name alone suggests more than a friendship, and they even have a car, a boat and a house together. That’s not all they have together. Along with Mrs. Potato Head came two little surprises in the form of a couple of spudlings named Yam and Spud. A girl and a boy Potato Head. Either the gestation period for a Potato Head is less than 9 months, or the kids were the Mrs. from a previous vegetable relationship. Whichever it was the case, such things were not openly discussed in the 1950’s. So, it was widely accepted that the kids were always around, just not in the forefront until then.

Since they were here, and were going to stay awhile, they needed to have social spuds. So, Kate the Carrot, Pete the Pepper, Oscar the Orange and Cookie Cucumber tagged along as their friends. The world of Potato Heads has expanded considerably over the last 70 years. Second only to the eccentric and gawdy universe of the classic ‘It Girl’, Barbie who came along well after the Potato Heads made their mark. The adventures of the spud family and friends have never ceased to amaze. The things a potato could do were unknown to those farmers in Iowa and are now even unbelievable to most of them. As they survey their crops, undoubtedly, they can’t help but wish to get a glimpse of a real-life Mr. Potato Head. It would be equal to, if not greater than seeing a Bigfoot cross their fields or an alien making crop circles in their corn like a teenager doing doughnuts on a joy ride. The farmer sitting on his porch, just at dusk could hear the faint whisper of a potato, ‘If you peel it, he will come…’ Or not.

Alas, as with many things of the past that have endured to the present, change catches up to it. The Potato Head family is not immune to time. Three years ago, modern society cornered Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head and the kids. The change was tremendous and the ultimatum was devastating. The country was going through a rebranding and many things were forced to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and in this case, it was the train. 

It started. Like so many things do, on social media. Some concerned citizen noted that calling the long-time standing spuds Mr. and Mrs. was limiting who they were. They were labeled and pigeon holed, not given the chance to fully express themselves and be who they were. Keep in mind here folks, we are talking about inanimate objects that are children’s toys make of plastic. No brains, no emotions and no feelings. Among their stick pin parts there is no heart, no brain, and no libido. Just a nose, eyes, ears, a mouth and some shoes. Still, in 2021, Hasbro decided to drop the Mr. and Mrs. and simply rename the toy, Potato Head. Yam and Spud retained their names, they were gender neutral enough, but the carrot, pepper, cucumber, and orange had to go. So, if we widen the identity of the family heads, maybe soon, we will have stick pins parts that can be applied to Turnup Heads, Gourd Heads, and Watermelon Heads, and…. suddenly, the Potato Head world has become an all-inclusive vegetable garden of stick pin characters. Next up, let’s talk about the Chia Pet family, shall we.