February 8, 2007


And the men behind the brand are...
Herman Fisher and Irving Price

For millions of Americans during the Depression toys were the most frivolous of luxuries. But Herman Guy Fisher, Irving Lanouette Price and Helen Schelle were determined to market their line of sturdy toys crafted from New York Ponderosa pine. They sold enough toys to stay in business until 1938 when Fisher-Price introduced Snoopy Sniffer at the Toy Fair. Snoopy was a loose-jointed, floppy-eared pull toy who woofed when you pulled his wagging spring tail.
Snoopy Sniffer was an instant hit that bred a toy empire in a small upstate New York town.

Irving Price had come to East Aurora, New York when he retired from his position as Eastern District Manager for Woolworth's at the age of 36. Price became involved in community work, serving on the school board. In 1928 he assumed the responsibility of attracting new industries to town.

In his search he met Herman Fisher, a Penn State graduate who had worked his way through school peddling Fuller brushes. After graduation Fisher had worked in sales promotion and advertising for several toy and game companies and was now ready to start his own toy company. A third partner was Helen Schelle, who operated a Penny Walker Toy Shop in Binghamton.

The three came together to establish the Fisher-Price Toy Company in 1930. They raised $71,600 from local businessmen and their own workers to convert an old frame and concrete house into a factory. Fisher had a clear idea of the toys he would make. He wanted to make children "toys that played with them." Fisher-Price toys would have intrinsic play values, strong construction and action.

Fisher, Price and Schelle called their first brochure "Sixteen Hopefuls." All the toys were constructed of Ponderosa pine blocks with color lithographs and they all did something comical. Ducks quacked, tails wagged, and beaks moved.

In 1936 Fisher-Price brought out their first "educational" toys, a line of blocks. The company gained a reputation for "good toys" - toys that were fun, safe and educational. With the success of Snoopy Sniffer Fisher-Price became the leading toy manufacturer in America. They were the first to license Disney characters for their toys. By the late 1930s Fisher-Price was producing over two million toys a year.

During World War II the toys became ship fenders and medical chests but Fisher-Price was ideally positioned for the post-war suburban baby boom.
In 1949 plastic was substituted for pine blocks to keep up with demand.
In the 1960s Fisher-Price introduced play people as an integral part of the toy increasing the play value. They built a nursery school and watched kids play. Their observations led Fisher-Price to become the largest maker of pre-school toys in America.

When Price retired in 1965 at the age of 81 revenues that were $116,000 in 1932 had mushroomed to $26,000,000. Four years later Fisher sold the company to Quaker Oats for $50,000,000. He was 71 years old. In the next twenty years the toy market exploded with high-tech toys, monsters, video games and war toys. But Fisher-Price stayed true to Fisher's philosophy of "good toys" for children. In 1990 Fisher-Price educational toys with built-in play values were producing nearly $400,000,000 in sales.

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