1942 was not the best of years for the United States, or the rest of the world. World War II had already been waging on for two whole years, and the U.S. was becoming more involved as the days went on. As a result, most of the manufacturing effort in the United States started switching over to producing goods for the War, taking away precious materials for toy production like rubber, plastics, and steel.
In fact, the lack of toy production was becoming such a big issue for the children that in 1942 the U.S. Department of Labor produced a publication titled, “Toys in Wartime”, which gave helpful advice to parents on making their own toys for their children, or even how to get the children to start making the toys.Even with the high demands for resources and a struggling economy, people actually still found the time and supplies to make toys in 1942, although not a copious amount. The majority of the toys had to be produced from wood and discarded items that could be found in the average household, as parents didn’t really have the money to go out and buy materials that were being made scarce by the war efforts.
One of the chapters in the “Toys in Wartime” publication even outlines how to make various toys out of gourds, a somewhat common fruit that grows on a stem. Instructions talk about making a rattle, a dipper for playing with sand, and bowls to play with, all out of gourds.
Not all toys were made by parents or kids back in 1942 though. One of the few companies that was around back then that produced toys is actually still around today and is in fact one of the largest names in the toy industry; Fisher-Price.
Unfortunately, even the giant toy company was struggling under the burden of the war, and just like the parents trying to make their own toys, Fisher-Price found itself severely limited in the materials it could use for cost-effective production.
In the end, almost all of the Fisher-Price toys during this year were “pull-toys”, a type of toy, usually modeled after an animal or vehicle, that was made out of wood and had wheels as well as a string for pulling the entire contraption along the floor. Fisher-Price actually still sells some similar pull toys today, albeit with completely updated styles and out of synthetic plastics and ropes, instead of wood and string.
It’s sad that because of decisions that weren’t even being made by them, kids were being denied many different basic play toys, but it is one of the unfortunate truths about the period during World War II, and one that is too late to change. However, the toy industry eventually pulled through the war. Several new toys, including silly putty, were created as a direct result of the war.
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