The Strong National Museum of Play, in Rochester, New York, has released the list of this year’s National Toy Hall of Fame inductees. What three classic toys made it into the Hall of Fame this year? The Atari 2600 Game System, Raggedy Andy, and the kite. These toys were selected from among twelve “toy finalists” which included favorite plaything such as the baby doll, Big Wheel, Game of Life, Hot Wheels, My Little Pony, the pogo stick, the skateboard, Spirograph, and Yahtzee.
The Atari 2600 Game System was a pioneer in the home video game field. Not because it was the very first home game system (which was, by the way, the Magnavox Odyssey), but because, it was the first system that, as the press release states, “popularized the play form.” In 1975, Atari made waves in the industry when the legendary table-tennis game called Pong was sold to the public as a home-video game. In 1977, however, the home video game system was revolutionized when the Atari 2600 Video Computer System burst onto the market, offering consumers a high-quality system that played multiple games.
“The 2600 had better games, more colorful graphics, and sharper sound than the original systems,” commented in the news release Jon-Paul Dyson, who serves as vice president for exhibit research and development, and is associate curator for electronic games. Dyson enthusiastically continued about the Atari, “Combat, Space Invaders, Pac Man, Frogger, and countless others mesmerized an entire generation and made video games a part of everyday play in the home. The Atari 2600 was a true game-changing toy.”
The kite is an ancient invention that has enthralled millions of people the word over. Patricia Hogan, curator at the Strong museum, explains kites date to 200 BCE, when the Chinese first used kites in battles. Kites also have played a prominent role in science, meteorology, building construction, and photography. “But kites have endured for a reason more fundamental than their scientific, meteorological, or military purposes,” Hogan remarked. “A kite needs only a bit of breeze, a wide open field, and a kids who wants to play. And nothing send the human spirit soaring so well as a colorful kite aloft in a gentle breeze.”
Raggedy Andy’s story begins when his sister was born in 1915 as a doll, invented by Johnny Gruelle. By 1918, Raggedy Ann appeared as a character in a children’s book and, by 1920, Ann’s popularity was so great that it prompted the introduction of her brother, Raggedy Andy, in his own publication, Raggedy Andy Stories. 20 books were written by Gruelle about the Raggedy siblings and, after generations of popularity, the Strong Museum inducted Raggedy Ann into their National Toy Hall of Fame in 2002. However, the museum soon received thousands of petitions, all showing support for the induction of Raggedy Andy and, thus, a unification of the beloved pair. “The dolls are at last reunited in this place of honor – where they belong, together of course, for always,” noted Hogan.
The press release states that the National Toy Hall of Fame has inducted some 38 toys, including the Barbie doll, Crayola Crayons, Jack in the Box, Play-Doh, and the Teddy Bear. The Strong National Museum of Play is located in downtown Rochester, New York, and is the only museum in the world that devotes itself to “the study of play as it illuminates American popular culture.”
Strong National Museum of Play. “Atari, Kite, Raggedy Andy Inducted into National Toy Hall of Fame.” 8 November 2007. 9 November 2007. http://www.strongmuseum.org/about_us/press/Winners07.html