Mr. Potato Head

The Origin Of A Talented Tuber

Once upon a time, Mr. Potato Head was almost nothing more than a forgotten cereal premium. But sometimes, there is just something that magically happens, and a product goes down into history being remembered as a classic. It would be George Lerner's turn to end up making that history! Around the World War II era, George Lerner was successful at being a well known inventor and designer. Just before 1950, he had a brainstorm; he designed and produced a set of plastic face pieces, that were push- pin shaped noses, ears, eyes and mouth. The expression-like piecess could be pushed into any fruit or vegetable transforming food into a play toy.

Mr. Lerner's toy idea wasn't what could be called an immediate hit. People still had the war mentality and to waste something as important as food, especially for a child's toy, would be a "sin." Eventually, George sold the toy, for $5,000 dollars, to a well-known cereal company. The cereal company planned to use the plastic pieces as what is known as a "premium giveaway" in cereal boxes. Remember those days when cereal had cool toys and trinkets stuffed somewhere in the box and you would dig through the sugary goodness to get to the prize, before anyone else could get it?

George knew that his new toy idea was destined for greater fame. That destiny came knocking for George and his toy in the the form of a meeting with a family owned New England manufacturer. Mr Lerner and the manufacturer bought back the rights to the toy from the cereal company for $7,000.

And so was born, Mr. Potato Head, one of the world’s most adored "personalities," created offically in 1952, at the Pawtucket, Rhode Island toy company, by the name of Hasbro, Inc. The talented tuber began making history at an early age as the very first toy to be advertised on television. The original Mr. Potato Head contained only parts, such as eyes, ears, noses and mouths;... parents had to supply children with real potatoes for face-changing fun!

Vintage Original Mr and Mrs Potato Head commercial 1960's

Mr. Potato Head Takes Root

Mr. Potato Head was a bonafide success! Selling over one million kits in the first year. In 1953, the world was introduced to Mrs. Potato Head, and soon enough,the Potato Head family was completed with the addition of Brother Spud and Sister Yam accessories; which was a direct reflection the affluence of the fifties that included a car, a boat trailer, a kitchen set, a stroller, and pets called Spud-ettes. Although originally produced as separate plastic parts to be stuck into a real potato or other vegetable, the now familiar plastic potato was added in 1964.

In 1975, due to the new child toy safety regulations that were introduced by the U.S. government, the plastic potato was doubled in size as well as all of  Mr. Potato Head's accessories. The bonus to this change in size was the increased market sales. Mr. Potato Head could now be sold to younger children, the new larger sized pieces allowed children to attach the facial pieces easily. Hasbro also replaced the holes with flat slots, which made it impossible for users to put the face pieces and other body parts the in the wrong places, lowering the chance for plastic perversion.  In the 1980s, Hasbro down-sized the range of Mr. Potato Head's accessories to only one set of parts. Hasbro did reintroduce the round holes in the main potato body at this time, and once again his parts were able to go into "the wrong locations."

In 1986, Mr. Potato Head surrendered his famous pipe to then Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, and became "Spokespud" for the annual Great American Smokeout . Later Mr. Potato Head made his movie acting debut in 1995 with a leading role in Pixar's animated feature, Toy Story. Mr. Potato Head is inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame in 2000, and later starred in his own comic strip.

In recent years, Hasbro also began selling individual pieces as sets to add to a collection instead of having to buy an entire Mr. Potato Head. Some of these themed sets include Firefighter, Construction Worker, Santa Claus, and the Star Wars-themed "Darth Tater" not to mention a list of new Mr. Potato Head accessories that are block-buster movie themed. A Kiss Version of Mr. Potato Head is rumoured to be in production.

Mr. Potato Head Commercial 1980's

Trying To Ketchup With Mr. Potato Head

Mr. Potato Head's popularity has led to appearances in film and television, including his first dramatic television supporting role in the 1985, "Potato Head Kids." He even had his own short-lived Fox Kids series, "The Mr. Potato Head Show." In addition to film and television, Mr. Potato Head has been on the receiving end of being the subject of the comic strip created by Jim Davis. Cartoonist Gary Larsen has included the spectacular spud in several of his "The Far Side" cartoons.

He has received a special award from the President's Council for Physical Fitness, and Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head had joined the League of Women Voters and their "Get Out the Vote" campaign.

All in all, not too bad for a potato of such humble beginnings, when you consider the basis for a popular children’s toy. Especially when you look at the company he keeps...Barbie, G. I. Joe, Hot Wheels, Licoln Logs and Erector Sets. He has survived and surpassed other trendy toys....remember Pound Puppies, and My Little Pony?  What else would possess a child to play with vegetables? Even though they won't eat them. But, back in the 1950s an inventor named George Lerner had a vision to transform vegetables into a child's play toy and... he succeeded.

Whether you can recall puncturing potatoes with plastic eyes and ears, or picking up a brand new plastic Mr. Potato Head for your own little ones, this multi-faceted vegetable has made an unimaginable impact on the American public. 

Just think, he nearly didn't make it out of a cereal box.

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Comments 65 comments

AshleyVictoria profile image

AshleyVictoria 7 years ago from Los Angeles

Wow, that vintage commercial is so great! Another fun hub, St. James!

St.James profile image

St.James 7 years ago from Lurking Around Florida Author

Yep, AshleyVictoria, the spud-man has come along way. I'm happy that you enjoyed it.

KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas

Check this'll love daughter and I found it recently when looking up a bit of KISS trivia.

By the way, great hub, as always!

St.James profile image

St.James 7 years ago from Lurking Around Florida Author

Very Cool! The Tater Kiss live... Thank you KCC Big Country, They look really cool. I may have to buy them.

KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas

I thought they were hilarious. Thanks for writing a hub I could link them to! LOL Can you imagine watching a group of kids playing with the KISS Mr. Potatoheads putting on all the gear, tongue, etc.? LOL

St.James profile image

St.James 7 years ago from Lurking Around Florida Author

Those are just too funny! I can't stop looking at them. Potato Head Kiss may be cooler than Rubber Ducky Kiss... but that may be a tough call.

BristolBoy profile image

BristolBoy 7 years ago from Bristol

I never realised there was all this history. I didn't know it was anything other than an idea made up for the Toy Story films.

St.James profile image

St.James 7 years ago from Lurking Around Florida Author

Mr. Potato Head does have a long soted history Bristol Boy. It my pleasure to bring you a bit of his origin

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago

That hub is very well done and interestig. It records a bit of history quite effectivelty.

St.James profile image

St.James 7 years ago from Lurking Around Florida Author

Thank you Ralph, for giving me what I feel is the ultimate compliment.

BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

Of course I had a potato head or two - many of us did and it gave us lots of hours of play fun. Had no idea there was that Katie Carrot.

Speaking of potatoes I was just telling a friend I must go out and get potatoes this cold gray dark rainy morning. Something about potatoes in the air this a.m.

Thanks for sharing this potato head info.

St.James profile image

St.James 7 years ago from Lurking Around Florida Author

Potatoes are always comforting BKCreative. I hope you can make the best out of one more rainy day.

hot dorkage profile image

hot dorkage 7 years ago from Oregon, USA

Love Mr. Potato head. The modern digital equivalent is with vector graphic parts that you can resize. :)

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Hot Dorkage, you can resize them? I didn't know that!

St.James profile image

St.James 7 years ago from Lurking Around Florida Author

Is there nothing the digital can't ruin?

Thank you Hot Dorkage, and Aya Katz for sharing your thoughts on such a hot potato issue.

mayhmong profile image

mayhmong 7 years ago from North Carolina

Ah, I like my Mr. Potato head with ketchup and a drink. I didn't know that Mr. Potato head was invented as early as the 50's?!

What are you going to write about next? Pokemons? hint hint. :D

St.James profile image

St.James 7 years ago from Lurking Around Florida Author

Pokemons were popular wwwwaaaayyyyy after my toy experiences. I was in my late 20's early 30's by the time pokémon really hit populairity..

but you never know MayHMong...most of the time ...I never know.

Thank you for mashing in your idea.

Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country

I enjoyed it too, St., and I am old enough to have played with the real potato one. Yes, you are right. it took some convincing to convince mom to give up a potato. I think later the parts came imbedded in a piece of styrofoam-type material which could be re-used for a time and didn't get potato juice all ovear everything.

The original idea was a genuine stroke of genius.

St.James profile image

St.James 7 years ago from Lurking Around Florida Author

I think the original Mr. Potato Head was a sneaky trick to get kids to eat their vegetables. Just like the original idea of "Popeye the Sailorman" was a ploy to get kids to eat spinach.

I thought your styrofoam-type material was brilliant. Thank you Rochelle Frank for sharing your tuber-tale.

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 7 years ago from East Coast, United States

My mother made me feel guilty if I played with an actual potato (so much cooler than the provided plastic head) because that was wasting food and some people are so hungry, starving to death and I just wanted to make a stupid face with it. After all these years, I would still never use a real potato. One potato can make a difference

G-Ma Johnson profile image

G-Ma Johnson 7 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

Man that was great and I so remember when they first came out,,Fun fun fun...sure has changed over the years...Loved the commericials too...

Yeh dolores, heck my mom says she walked to school with a hot potato to keep her hands warm and then that was her lunch ????

Thanks James...G-Ma :O) Hugs & Peace

Dink96 profile image

Dink96 7 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

Sorry old man, I still prefer the article in Details.  ;-)  (But I give another of your trips down memory lane a thumbs up.)

St.James profile image

St.James 7 years ago from Lurking Around Florida Author

Dolores Monet and G-ma Johnson... One potato can make a difference and I think it was my Granny Goodwitch who used to say the same thing about the potato to keep her hands warm, too.

Dinky... I still have a few of those up my sleeve, but sometimes you need to graze the tip of the iceberg once in a while.

Thank you all 3 wonderful gals.

P.S. How's the voice Dink?

LelahKimball profile image

LelahKimball 7 years ago from USA

My kids have this HUGE tub (36 gallons) filled with a 3-4 potato heads and parts galore. I don’t think they’ve made a Mr. Potato Head piece we don’t own. It’s one of the best souvenirs you can get at Disney World—the specialized Mr. Potato Head pieces. I loved this hub!

Laughing Mom profile image

Laughing Mom 7 years ago

Lelah, he has several nostalgia hubs that are just great!

I never had potato head growing up, so I never thought to get one for my kids. I wonder if they'd still enjoy one.....

And I wonder why they quit putting the toys in the cereal boxes. That's how we chose which one to put in the cart every week as kids! And that makes me wonder about the whole Cracker Jack deal. Cheesy tatoos are nothing compared to the toys we used to get in there. I'm going to go see if you've done a hub on this....

St.James profile image

St.James 7 years ago from Lurking Around Florida Author

Lelah... Thank you for the Disney World tip ... I live less than 2 hours from there and I' ve not been there since it first opened. But just for Mr. Potato Head... I may go.

Laughing Mom... So true about picking cereal out when we were kids... The Cracker Jacks deal may be a good hub. They used to have good prizes.

Much thank to you both for finding this Hub a"peel"ing

Iphigenia 7 years ago

MEMORIES - yes ! I had one of these for my 8th birthday - I loved playing with them. Great to see a vintage an a modern video ad. Thanks for te memories ...

Silver Freak profile image

Silver Freak 7 years ago from The state of confusion

Ai di mi! What a blast from the past! We used to put the glasses and hats on the cats just to make ourselves laugh, My mom always dragged out the Mr. Potato heads the night before we were going to have mashed potatoes. We had to wash everything before we played with them and again after, but the one that made the goofiest looking face got to use the masher to make the potatoes, and do all the taste testing to make sure they were "right".

Thanks for jogging the gray cells!

St.James profile image

St.James 7 years ago from Lurking Around Florida Author

Wow! two really great memories... thank you both.

Iphigenia 8 years old Mr. Potato Head was super fun.

Silver Freak... I remember pestering the family pets with the accessories too. But the Potato ritual seems a bit like throwing the virgin into the volcano, to me.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma

Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane! Like Rochelle, I too am old enough to remember using real potatos with my Mr. Potato Head. The ears and such could be stuck *anywhere*, meaning the possibilities were only limited by one's imagination. Later versions with the plastic head and its pre-drilled holes were b-o-r-i-n-g. Talk about discouraging a kid's imagination! Might've that been the point?

St.James profile image

St.James 7 years ago from Lurking Around Florida Author

Jama Genee... don't you think we would all be much better-off if instead of a pre-drilled life, we were allowed to be more creative now? Mr. Potato Head may be safer, but definitely not as much fun.

Thank you so much for sharing your fond, but mashed.. memories.

blondepoet profile image

blondepoet 7 years ago from australia

Hey St. James my god you have been so busy yet again. How do I ever keep up with you. You spit out stories faster than I put rollers in hair. Oh Mr Potato Head he is the man. What a great next story to read after reading the Troll Dolls.Now Mr Potato I can think of a few people on HP he resembles hahah. He even featured in Toy Story. I think they are adorable and I wish I had one right now to play with. Top story from a top writer. Thumbs up..(Hugs)

St.James profile image

St.James 7 years ago from Lurking Around Florida Author

I am sure with an invite like that... you will have many potato heads waiting outside your door to take you up on that offer. Thank you BlondePoet for another deep fried moment.... hahaha

blondepoet profile image

blondepoet 7 years ago from australia

Hahaha wish EG was here....I am going to make an avatar of him as Mr Potato Head. That man St.James, is running around in my clothes and he is using my bra as a sling shot .I put this barrel on to hide my nakedness and now I am stuck

St.James profile image

St.James 7 years ago from Lurking Around Florida Author

It could be worse...if it was me. I might wear your bra like a hat. I'd offer you clothes but I gotta say that I'm seem to have a case of barrel envy. That barrel is pretty lucky from where I stand.

blondepoet profile image

blondepoet 7 years ago from australia

Hahaa there is a little tap on the side here..I could pour you a drink St.James.Perhaps if you had a big chisel or something you could give me a hand..LMAO a hat, I have to see that.

St.James profile image

St.James 7 years ago from Lurking Around Florida Author

Poor thing may I offer you the shirt off of my back?

ooops! dropped it....

Seriously...Here's my shirt.

Bra Hat Photo.....

blondepoet profile image

blondepoet 7 years ago from australia

Hahahahah love that hat. Isn't it funny how we go from Mr. Potato Head to wearing bras on ones head. Oh that is hilarious.

St.James profile image

St.James 7 years ago from Lurking Around Florida Author

I think they go together like steak and lobster. Pretty nice separtely, but together they are a symphony.

jim10 profile image

jim10 7 years ago from ma

Mr. Potato Head is a great toy with so many possibilities. My boys love making funny faces on our various Mr. Potato Head figures. The mini ones are fun too. I think I should let my kids try using the parts on some real potatoes for added fun.

St.James profile image

St.James 7 years ago from Lurking Around Florida Author

It does amaze me that something so simple can keep anyone's attention for so long, Jim. Thank you for sharing and keep those youngins busy.

katyzzz profile image

katyzzz 7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

Ms Potato head to you pal, boy, how much did all these fans cost you, I can see I write the wrong stuff

St.James profile image

St.James 7 years ago from Lurking Around Florida Author

Katyzzz.... What you don't see are the 200+ topics that I have written and nobody's has ever commented on... Keep on writing what you write about. I usually just write about everything and anything.

You're still a top spud in my book!

jajeisan5892 profile image

jajeisan5892 7 years ago from Los Angeles

i enjoyrd your hub

St.James profile image

St.James 7 years ago from Lurking Around Florida Author

Thank you for taking the time to read it, Jajeisan.

gamezire profile image

gamezire 7 years ago

Oh, THANK YOU for this.

mdawson17 7 years ago

I have read hubs that when on and on but never gave a bit of history or any kind of information, I have found this not true with this hub! What a great writer you are! You deserve the compliment I have just given! I can tell you have put thought in this particular hub!!

What awesome work!!!!

keep on Hubbing!!!!


St.James profile image

St.James 7 years ago from Lurking Around Florida Author

Thank you MDawson17... Your compliments are very much appreciated.

Mrs. Potato Head 7 years ago

I Love Mr. Potato Head! I'm Looking For A Mr. Potato Head Fan Club....Ya Know Where I Can Join One?

St.James profile image

St.James 7 years ago from Lurking Around Florida Author

Mrs. Potato Head,

While I do not know of any fan clubs... You could google, or check around vintage toy collector conventions.

Research Analyst profile image

Research Analyst 7 years ago

I remember having a mr. potatoe head, it is fun to put his parts on his face.

chandanakumarct profile image

chandanakumarct 7 years ago from Bangalore

Njoyed the hub. Thanks

JPSO138 profile image

JPSO138 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines, International

Very interesting how you come up with this information and idea. Great hub...

RGraf profile image

RGraf 7 years ago from Wisconsin

I remember the first time I saw one. We had hours of fun mixing up the pieces and having him look so funny.

Silverlining profile image

Silverlining 7 years ago from Port Elizabeth

Great hub! 5*

tdarby profile image

tdarby 7 years ago

I always wanted a Mr. Potato Head. He is the man, or should I say the potato.

mdlawyer profile image

mdlawyer 6 years ago

Your hub is fantastic. Really enjoyable.

Moulik Mistry profile image

Moulik Mistry 6 years ago from Burdwan, West Bengal, India

This is really too funny - Mr. Potato Head has given me immense pleasure, very well done...

daisy storm 6 years ago

I loved Mr. Potato Head! We had to share ours...there was five of us kids in my family. But, I also like Mrs. Potato head now. Great in the movie: 'Toy Story'. Great hub! Thanks for the background on the toy. :)

JohnTaper profile image

JohnTaper 6 years ago from BizarroLand

Good stuff here. Didn't realize it started out as pieces that you put on actual foods. Pretty interesting indeed. I bet a bunch of kids cried when their mom pulled off their beloved toys faces and limbs and then smashed their bodies to smithereens. Must have been very traumatic to eat your little friends. MuaHaHa!

raakachi profile image

raakachi 6 years ago from Madurai / Tamilnadu / India

Simply nice! the transformation idea has won.

LillyGrillzit profile image

LillyGrillzit 6 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

You play, play, play with words...And Toys! Voted UP!

RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

Who knew! So Mr. Potato Head was really the great grand-daddy of the "Transformers" - too cool!

ed77burns 6 years ago

Good work..

samismom 5 years ago

and I thought my husband (who's ten years older than me and from a family of 9) was just a dirt poor kid with very creative parents hahaha - little did I know they really did have a kit made of thumbtacks to use on real potatos hahahaha - who knew???

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