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Guess what toy used to be a wall cleaner!

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Hey, Play-Doh People!

Today is National Play-Doh Day. Kids of all ages love to play with Play-Doh. The fact that 2 billion cans of the stuff have been sold since its beginnings in 1933 just goes to show what a great toy it is! Funny thing is, back then, Play-Doh wasn’t made to be a toy at all! It was actually meant to be a wallpaper cleaner. 

A man named Cleo McVicker had just saved a company called Kutol from going under. His next move was telling representatives of Kroger grocery stores that he could make a wallpaper cleaner despite the fact that neither he nor anyone at Kutol knew anything about wallpaper cleaners. It was a bold, risky move, but it would eventually lead to amazing success.

At the time, coal was pretty much the only means of home heating. Therefore, wallpaper cleaner was in high demand. You couldn’t simply wash wallpaper with water the way you can today’s vinyl wallpaper. So people needed a putty-like substance that could dryly clean coal residue from their wallpaper. Cleo hired his brother Noah to help concoct the substance that would become Play-Doh.

When easy-to-wash, vinyl-based wallpaper came along, it seemed, once again, that Kutol would have to close its doors. To make matters worse, Cleo passed away. Around this time, Joe McVicker, Noah’s nephew was brought on to help fill Cleo’s role at Kutol. This move proved beneficial to the company as it was Joe’s sister-in-law, Kay Zufall who became Play-Doh’s unrecognized heroine.

It was Kay who, running a nursery school, discovered that wallpaper cleaner could be used to make cheap Christmas decorations! Aware of Kutol’s tough position, she called her brother-in-law immediately to order a bunch of wallpaper cleaner. Not only did the cleaner work great, but the kids had a great time playing with it. By 1955, Play-Doh was sold on the market, the same concoction as before but without the detergent. Play-Doh is easy to alter and easy to make. In fact, you can easily make your own Play-Doh. Check out these easy recipes here and thanks for reading!


- John

Posted in History Lessons


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