Favorite Christmas Toys Over the Last Century: 1940s Part I

  1940: Red Ryder BB Gun If you have ever seen the 1983 film “A Christmas Story,” you will instantly recognize the toy gun as the main character Ralphie’s most desired Christmas present. Typical of the 1940s generation, the Red Ryder BB Gun was a big deal to boys like Ralphie all across the U.S. The toy gun was modeled after the famous Winchester Rifle and included features like a spring piston air compressor, 650 BB magazine capacity, a smooth bore barrel. It has a velocity of 270 feet per second and a short range of 10 yards.   The Red Ryder BB Gun was produced by Daisy Outdoor Products in Plymouth, Michigan. The gun was named after a popular cowboy character “Red Ryder” in a Western-style comic strip that came out in 1938. Although the comic strip is not around anymore, the famous BB gun still is. Every boy who wants to play cowboys, still wishes for a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas, just like their dad and their grandad did when they were little.   1940: Bubble Solution   The Chicago cleaning-supplies company, Chemtoy, was the first to produce the bottled bubble solution for children in 1940. Children have loved blowing soapy water into bubbles for decades prior to Chemtoy’s bottles of bubble solution. However, the portable solution with it’s easy to use bubble wands brought new excitement about bubbles blowing and helped to proliferate the activity. Soon every household, classroom, and child group, had a few bottles of the bubble solution. Over the past seventy some odd years, bubbles have evolved as they began being produced by numerous companies all over the world. You can now find bubble solution with different yummy smells, colors, and wands of varying sizes. There are even bubble machines so you can save your breath, but still get a consistent flow of bubbles.   Although it is still predominantly a child’s toy, bubbles have become a part of our culture in other ways. The hippies of the 1960s adopted bubbles as a symbol of peace as large groups would blow bubbles in the air together at once, showing unity in peace and love. Later, the bubbles worked its way into weddings, becoming a symbol of love with guests blowing bubbles for the send-off in place of throwing rice at the bride and groom. Recently, bubbles have been adopted into therapeutic practices for child and even adult therapy.   1942: Little Golden Books   Prior to 1942, middle-class parents did not have an affordable high-quality option for children’s books. Simon & Schuster changed that with the Little Golden Books series. The initial twelve title series comprises these classics:  
  1. Three Little Kittens, by Marie Simchow Stern
  2. Bedtime Stories, illus. Gustaf Tenggren
  3. Mother Goose, by Phyllis Fraser, illus. Gertrude E. Espenscheid
  4. Prayers for Children, by Rachel Taft Dixon
  5. The Little Red Hen, illus. Rudolf Freund
  6. Nursery Songs, by Leah Gale, illus. Corinne Malvern
  7. The Alphabet from A to Z, by Leah Gale, illus. Vivienne Blake and Richard Peck
  8. The Poky Little Puppy, by Janette Sebring Lowrey, illus. Gustaf Tenggren
  9. The Golden Book of Fairy Tales, by Winfield Scott Hoskins
  10. Baby's Book of Objects
  11. The Animals of Farmer Jones, by Leah Gale, illus. Richard Scarry
  12. This Little Piggy and Other Counting Rhymes, by Phyllis Cerf Wagner, illus. Roberta Harris Pfafflin Petty
  The series was a big success. So much so that, after their release to stores in September 1942 it took only five months for Simon & Schuster to sell 1.5 million copies. The Poky Little Puppy was their best seller and still is. In fact, the book alone has now sold over 15 million copies and is the best selling children’s book of all time in the U.S., even outselling well-known titles such as Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham. With the success of the initial twelve titles, The Little Golden Books series has now expanded to over 1,200 titles, with more than two billion copies of their books printed and sold all over the world.