Toys and American Culture: An Encyclopedia

Toys and American Culture: An Encyclopedia

Toys and American Culture: An Encyclopedia

Toys and American Culture: An Encyclopedia


Tracing developments in toy making and marketing across the evolving landscape of the 20th century, this encyclopedia is a comprehensive reference guide to America's most popular playthings and the culture to which they belong.


Despite their innocent plea, toys are more than simple diversions. They teach intellectual strategies, increase physical agility, and transmit national values. On many occasions, toys have spurred public debate. Toys and American Culture: An Encyclopedia is a reference guide to the culture and controversies surrounding America’s most popular playthings. Alphabetically arranged entries examine the diverse products, bizarre trends, and impressive individuals who have shaped America’s culture of fun. Although previously published works provide basic facts about toys, this book is the first A to Z reference to emphasize the reciprocal relationship between toys and popular culture. The purpose of this encyclopedia is to examine the invention and development of American toys in terms of historical events, social movements, and international progress.

Toys are the building blocks of society. The study of a nation’s toys reveals the hopes, goals, values, and priorities of its people. This encyclopedia documents America’s shifting cultural values as they are embedded within and transmitted by the nation’s favorite playthings. Developments in toy making and marketing are traced across the evolving landscape of 20th-century America. Although the years between 1900 and 2000 are the concentration of this study, toys from the two decades that bookend the century are included as bridges to the fascinating past and inspiring future of American toys.

Over 160 entries within this encyclopedia introduce the reader to the most significant items, ideas, and individuals within 20th-century toy making. These are conveniently listed alphabetically in the list of entries and are also clustered categorically in a guide to related topics. Each entry begins with a basic description and a summary of the essential facts pertaining to the subject. A discussion of cultural significance then frames the entry within its social and historical context. Major events, developments, and controversies concerning each entry are introduced within the text as a gateway to further exploration.

The history of American toys is long, diverse, and complex. The contemporary playroom includes everything from ancient marbles to interactive robots. It would be impossible for any text to catalog all of the toys that are presently available in the United States, much less record the uncountable favorites that have entertained previous generations. Instead of chronicling all of America’s toys, this book focuses on those that most affect and reflect American culture. Discussions of toys such as die-cast cars and teddy bears, which maintained their popularity throughout the 20th century, are included alongside generational fads such as the Mama doll and the Pet Rock.

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