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Toys of the Decades

The History of Popular Christmas Gifts from the 1910s to the 2010s
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Brown teddy bear isolated in front of a white background.

Christmas, a cherished tradition for centuries, has witnessed an evolution in gift-giving, reflecting the changing times and tastes. From the 1910s to the 2000s, each decade boasts a distinct history behind its most popular Christmas gifts. Here is a list of the most popular Christmas gifts through the years and the history of how they came to be.

1910s-1920s: Teddy Bears 

During the 1910s-1920s, the Teddy Bear emerged as a beloved Christmas gift. Created in 1903 and named after President Theodore Roosevelt, this cuddly companion had a humble origin. Roosevelt’s refusal to shoot a tied-up bear during a hunting trip inspired a cartoon by Clifford Berryman. This cartoon reached Morris Michtom, a candy shop owner, who crafted the first teddy bear, dedicating it to the president, nicknamed Teddy.

1930s: Mickey Mouse

In the 1930s, a stuffed Mickey Mouse doll became a Christmas sensation. Following the success of “Steamboat Willie,” Mickey Mouse soared to stardom, and the desire to be part of the Mickey Mouse fandom led to the widespread popularity of the iconic stuffed doll.

1940s: Slinkys

In the mid-1940s, Slinkys became a favored toy among children. The accidental creation of the Slinky by mechanic Richard James, intended for ship equipment stability, turned into a sensation. The toy’s unique walking motion captivated kids, and it quickly transformed into the next big novelty toy.

1950s: Hula Hoops

The late 1950s saw the rise of the entertaining Christmas toy, the hula hoop. Inspired by Australian kids twirling bamboo hoops in gym class, Richard Knerr and Arthur Melin of Wham-O toy company created the hula hoop using newly developed plastic Marlex. A staggering 25 million hoops were sold within two months of its release.

1960s: Lite Brite

The late 1960s introduced the Lite Brite, a toy that allowed children to create hundreds of light designs. Conceived by toy makers Marvin Glass, Henry Stan, and Burt Myers after witnessing a beautiful light display in New York City, the Lite Brite became a source of creative joy for many.

1970s: Nerf Ball

In 1970, Parker Brothers introduced the Nerf Ball, designed as a safe way to play ball indoors. This foam ball became the world’s first official indoor ball, offering both outdoor and indoor fun for ecstatic kids.

1980s: Rubik’s Cube

The early 1980s witnessed the Rubik’s Cube taking the world by storm. Created by Hungarian sculptor and professor Ernő Rubik, this puzzle-solving toy became a sensation, challenging and captivating millions worldwide.

1990s: Furby

A hit in the 1990s, the Furby toy, released by Tiger Electronics in 1998, resembled an owl or hamster-like creature. Kids cared for it like a real pet, responding to commands and saying over a hundred words, creating a unique interactive experience. 

2000s: Razor Scooters

The top-selling toy in the 2000s, the Razor scooter, designed by Carlton Calvin through the JD Corporation, combined fun, convenience, and sleek aesthetics. These scooters quickly became favorites, offering kids an exciting way to navigate their surroundings.

2010s: Funko POP!

With massive heads and black eyes, the collectible line of Funko POP! vinyl figures carries hundreds of licenses, to make collectors happy. To help their growth and popularity, Target and Walmart promote their own exclusive figures. 

From the 1900s to the 2010s, popular Christmas toys have undergone significant changes, each with its own captivating story of creation. Who knows what will end up being the most popular toy of the 2020s, considering it isn’t even halfway through the decade yet. 

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About the Contributor
Lydia Kiser
Lydia Kiser, Staff Writer
Lydia is a first-year staff writer. She is the sophomore class vice-president and is in the Chick-fil-A Leader Academy and the KIND club. She is involved in tennis and is a thrower on the track and field team. In her free time, Lydia enjoys reading and watching Melissa McCarthy and Adam Sandler movies. She is very excited to be able to bring out her creativity through The Station.

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