Mr. Potato Head is WHAT?! 20 things you didn’t know about your favorite toy tuber

Mr. Potato Head wants you to know that despite how ridiculous kids can make him look…

Misshapen Mr Potato Head

…he is a phenomenally successful activist, adventurist, and billionaire. He has been in production since 1952 when he began life as a set of spiked pieces for kids to gouge into real potatoes. And over the course of the following six decades, he has gone on to fame, fortune, adventure, and activism.

Here are 20 things you may not have realized about the most popular tuber in the world.

In 2008, he hung out with nearly all the presidential candidates.

College student Andy Green took pictures of Mr. Potato Head with every candidate at the Iowa Caucuses except for Sam Brownback and Joe Biden. “I’m not saying his refusal to take a photo with Mr. Potato Head doomed his campaign,” Green says of Brownback, “But I’m sure it didn’t help that I was bad-mouthing him to a lot of people.” And Green says he’ll never forget Biden’s response: “I don’t take pictures with funny hats and funny toys.”

Potato Head & Politicians

He started life as a cereal box prize.

Mr. Potato Head inventor George Lerner had trouble finding a company in the late 1940s who would sell his face-parts for vegetables. Toymakers were concerned that post-war families who were accustomed to  careful rationing would not “waste” good groceries as playthings for their kids. So Lerner settled on distributing the toy as the prize in cereal boxes.

Mr. Potato Head became a best-seller because he was more fun than school supplies…

At the time, brothers Henry and Merrill Hassenfeld owned a modest textiles and pencil-box business. The boxes sold well when a few school supplies were included inside. But when the Hassenfelds substituted Potato Head parts for those pencils and erasers in 1952? Well, they made four million dollars in sales that year.

…and he launched a major toy-making corporation in the process.

On the strength of their Mr. Potato Head sales, those Hassenfeld Brothers focused on making toys, shortened the company name to Hasbro, and became one of the largest toy companies in the world.

Hasbro company checks are watermarked with Mr. Potato Head.

It’s their way of saying, Thanks to you, we can print money!

In Canada, Mr. Potato Head is also known as Monsieur Patate and is sometimes missing a tooth.

Of course, he’s missing a tooth — he plays hockey up there. Out of hundreds of versions of Mr. Potato Head, this is the only one I’ve seen where not all of his pearly whites are pearly white.

PH - French Hockey

Mr. Potato Head was the first toy to be advertised on television.

Rotten vegetables and safety concerns led to the plastic potato with interchangeable parts whom we know today.

Eventually, parents had it up to here with rotting spud pieces in their kids’ bedrooms, and the U.S. government was increasingly concerned about toys with spikes coming out of them… Something about endangering children, maybe.

So, in 1964, Hasbro ditched the sharp spikes and began including plastic potato bodies with predrilled holes for the new, less-pointy parts in every Mr. Potato Head set.

Government safety regulations are the reason Mr. Potato Head is so darn cute.

You may have assumed that Mr. Potato head is large and cuddly-looking today because people love their paedomorphic toys, but his steady evolution from rugged spud to cutie tuber was driven by anti-choking regulations requiring that all his parts be large and round enough that no child could swallow them.

Potato Head Evolution

The 1970s were a strange time for Mr. Potato Head.

Like a lot of folks in the 70s, Mr. Potato Head had a tan and some questionable pals. For some reason, he was a manufactured in a darker color for several years. And instead of a wife, Hasbro gave him Mr. Potato Fish, Mr. Potato Bird, and Mr. Potato Bug.

Potato Head Bird Bug & Fish

Adding insult to injury, 1970s Mr. Potato Head had no arms, had slots instead of holes for his parts, and his head was enlarged to twice its previous size.

The ’70s were rough on Mrs. Potato Head, too.

She didn’t even have a body, but was sold only as a “lady accessory kit” for dressing up Mr. Potato Head. When he got tired of dressing up as the sheriff, I suppose. Like I said, strange times.

The trapdoor in his backside was first introduced in 1983.

It’s as anatomically correct as any of his other parts, right? And very useful for storing those other parts when they were not being used.

In addition to countless cameo appearances, Mr. Potato Head starred in two different TV shows.

The Potato Heads were some of the “friends” on My Little Pony and Friends in 1986. And for one glorious season in 1998 and ’99, The Mr. Potato Head Show held down a slot on the Fox Family channel.

Mr. Potato Head quit smoking in November 1987.

Just days before that year’s Great American Smokeout, Mr. Potato Head publicly turned his pipe over to Surgeon General C. Everett Koop. Unlike the president and other normal human beings, Mr. Potato Head has been able to kick the habit for good.

Potato Head & Koop

In his middle age, Mr. Potato Head has led an active civic life…

On his 40th birthday in 1992, he stopped being a couch potato long enough to receive an award from the Presidential Council for physical fitness. He and Mrs. Potato Head were spokes-spuds for the League of Women Voters get out the vote campaign in 1996. He has been the tourism ambassador for Rhode Island, and these days he appears on Rhode Island license plates supporting the state’s food banks.

Potato Head License Plate

…yet he has a history of endorsing the consumption of his own kind.

Mr. Potato Head give-aways have helped sell fries for Burger King, Hardee’s, Checkers, McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, and other fast food places.

Mr. Potato Head has floated in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade two times.

In 2005 and 2007, he wore sneakers and carried a water bottle the length of the parade to promote good health. Penance, maybe, for his history with tobacco and fries.

PH in Parade

Mr. Potato Head can be booked to play some horn-infused funk at your wedding, party or other events.

Hold up, that’s the actual band, “Mr. Potato Head.”

Mr. Potato Head prefers Glam Metal.

Potato Head as KISS

Mr. Potato Head holds the Guinness World Record for “Most Votes for Mr. Potato Head in a Political Campaign.”

He received four in the 1985 Boise, Idaho, mayoral election.

It’s been an eventful run for Sir Spud, and it’s not over yet. Mr. Potato Head continues to appear on shelves in all sorts of outfits and disguises, all as a-peeling as ever.

(If you want more, check out The Mr. Potato Head Collector’s Page and Wikipedia.)

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3 responses to “Mr. Potato Head is WHAT?! 20 things you didn’t know about your favorite toy tuber”

  1. indolent says:

    Joe Biden was a presidential candidate?

  2. Karsten Piper says:

    You’re probably right. :-) They’re somewhere in there between Slade/David Bowie/New York Dolls and Motley Crue/Cinderella/etc, though.

  3. Karsten Piper says:

    Yep, for most of 2007. He dropped out of the race in early 2008, and then a few months later was asked to join Pres. Obama’s campaign as the VP candidate. Maybe it would have been the other way around if he’d taken more pictures with silly hats and toys…

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