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History of Play-doh

Updated on February 21, 2012


Play-doh now comes in many colors.
Play-doh now comes in many colors.

Play-doh's Beginnig

Play-doh is a very interesting product. This is one of the best from rags to riches to rags to riches again stories ever. The start of Play-doh's story starts out as a cleaner actually. In 1912 the company Kutol Products Company was founded. By the year 1927, Kutol Products was facing closure with no prospects. Cleo McVicker hired his brother Noah on to manage the plant. Cleo decided to try on the hat of sales and became the companies salesman. Noah didn't only run the plant he was supposed to help develop new products as well.

Rags to Riches

1933 rolls around and Cleo pitches a wallpaper cleaner to Kroger, a grocery store chain. Kroger decides to go with Kutol for a wallpaper cleaner to replace their current wallpaper cleaner. The fun part of this information is that Cleo agreed to fifteen thousand cases of the cleaner. A cleaner that Kutol had never made and on top of this, if Kutol was late in delivery of the wallpaper cleaner the company would pay Kroger five thousand dollars in fines. An amount that doesn't seem like a lot today, but with the unstable financial foundation of Kutol - this amount would have bankrupted the company. Cleo McVicker was a man that had some steel in him. Kutol did make the deadline and this is possibly what led Kutol Products Company to be the largest wallpaper cleaner manufacturer in the world for the next twenty years.

Play-doh is almost never released

Now the 1950s approach and fewer and fewer people are using coal to heat their houses. With the use of natural gas, oil, and electric heat there is less need to clean wallpaper because the new methods are cleaner. And once again, Kutol was facing closure. And the precursor to all this is that in 1949 Cleo had died in a plane crash. With the company spiraling down, Cleo's wife, Irma McVicker, hires her son Joseph McVicker and son-in-law Bill Rhodenbaugh to change the company around and save it. Joseph talking with his sister-in-law was told that her students needed a better modeling clay to work with because they were too young for the hard and barely pliable clay. Joseph's mind was at work with this and in 1955 he tested some of the wallpaper cleaner in Cincinnati, Ohio area schools. Focusing on kindergarten and younger ages. The teachers and schools loved the off-white pliable modeling compound.

Play-doh rises up

Joseph and his uncle Noah started the Rainbow Crafts Company, Inc. in 1956. There are a lot of accounts that state the McVicker brothers started this company but it was Joseph McVicker who was brought into the company in 1949 and his uncle who helped turn the company around the first time in 1933. The company received a patent for its modeling compound in 1965. And from the sales of Play-doh Joseph McVicker is a millionaire by the time he turns 27.

Play-doh is bought commercially too

The Rainbow Crafts Company ended up being bought by General Mills. After awhile, General Mills merged Rainbow Crafts with Kenner Products. The Tonka Corp. purchases the Kenner line from General Mills and in 1991 Hasbro bought Tonka. Hasbro is still the current producer of Play-doh. There are many more colors than the single original color of off-white. There are over 125 accessories now produced for the specific purpose of assisting in modeling Play-doh. And Play-doh has become an American story of rags to riches twice over.

Some Facts:

Originally was one color: off-white.

The recipe is a secret and has changed countless times.

Play-doh is non-toxic.

It was created in Ohio.

Was originally sold in 1.5 pound cardboard can.

Play-doh was a wallpaper cleaner.

Woodward & Lothrop (in Washington D.C.) was the first department store to carry Play-doh.

Play Dough Recipe

2 c flour
2 c warm water
1 c salt
2 T vegetable oil
1 T cream of tartar
Various food colorings

A basic recipe. Mix them all together and you get Play Dough. This is not Play-doh's recipe of course. But still fun none-the-less.


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    • profile image

      Redes informaticas 6 years ago

      That's Great!

    • CJ Andrews profile image

      Chris Andrews 6 years ago from Norwalk, Ohio

      Ms. Chievous - I will have to look at your play-doh hub. And I do like your site. Very imaginative and fun. I am glad that I looked at it from your profile.

    • Ms Chievous profile image

      Tina 6 years ago from Wv

      very well done. I still play with Play-Doh! gonna link to my Play-Doh hub! :)

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi C J, fun and interesting hub, I remember making play doh for my kids, it's great stuff, nice and clean, it so beats the old plasticine, use to find bits of the stuff stuck everywhere!

    • SueShepard profile image

      SueShepard 6 years ago from USA

      @CJ Nope. Didn't know that, see...we need a Hub about it! lol

    • CJ Andrews profile image

      Chris Andrews 6 years ago from Norwalk, Ohio

      Thanks for reading the article. @Sue I may have to, did you know that tomato ketchup was actually one of the later types of ketchup. There use to be many different type.

    • Wil C profile image

      Wil C 6 years ago from United States of America

      So can i eat the play-doh? Just kidding. Nice article. I used to love playing with the play-doh. Now I know how to make it.

    • SueShepard profile image

      SueShepard 6 years ago from USA

      I am originally from PA. You could do a history on the Heinz Co. Just a suggestion....:)

    • SueShepard profile image

      SueShepard 6 years ago from USA

      This was cool! So many interesting facts! Excellent!

    • CJ Andrews profile image

      Chris Andrews 6 years ago from Norwalk, Ohio

      That is interesting. Since moving to Ohio I find it interesting that this state has such an interesting history. Thanks for taking the time to make a comment.

    • feenix profile image

      feenix 6 years ago

      CJ Andrews, I had no idea that Play-doh has such a colorful history (pardon the pun). And I must say that in addition to being quite informative, this is a very well-written and obviously-well-researched hub. Also, because I grew up in the 1950s, I remember when Play-doh first hit the market. In fact, my sister and I were the first kids on our block to have some of that wonderful stuff.

    • CJ Andrews profile image

      Chris Andrews 6 years ago from Norwalk, Ohio

      My daughter is "in to" play-doh and I heard a movie quote that it was a brother and sister who started it. So I looked into it. I hope everyone else finds it as interesting as I do. Thanks for the comment.

    • duffsmom profile image

      P. Thorpe Christiansen 6 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

      Fun and interesting Hub.