Life in the 50’s: Popular Toys of the 1950’s


Retro Dee writes about music, fashion and other trends of the 1950s on this site.  Check out her blog, Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever here, and her column here every Wednesday.

Hi, folks! It’s Retro Dee with another swell edition of “Life in the 50’s!”

The 1950’s were a good time for most families. The war was over and The Great Depression was far behind them. Most families were comfortable, middle class families with a well-paid working father, and a stay-at-home mother. This stable family structure saw a surge in the abundance of many types of playthings available for children.

So what kinds of toys did children play with in the 50’s?

Let’s have a look at some of the popular toys of the day…

Kiddie Cars:

Kiddie Cars were kid-sized toy cars that kids could drive! These fantastically crafted toys were popular in the 1950’s due to the fact that many families could now afford such an elaborate gift to give to their child.

Kiddie Cars were modeled after the real things which means, like the actual cars of the 1950’s, they had a distinct, classic look. And pray make no mistake, this was no simple toy! Some Kiddie Cars had a pedal-driven two-speed transmission and ball bearings in rear axle supports to increase “roadability”… Golly!

Kiddie Cars were so detailed, and so beautifully made, that they have become true collectors items, rare to find in their original form.

kiddiecorvette56b
1956 ad for the “Kiddie Corvette” which was perfectly modeled after the real thing.

Triva: Hallmark has made a whole line of ornaments based on the Kiddie Cars of the 1950’s!

Slinky Toys:

Another popular toy of the 1950’s was the slinky. Slinky was available in many fun forms as seen in this 1957 advertisement:

slinky57
Slinky was popular in the late 1950’s in many new toy forms.

 

Toys For Boys!

Cars, trains, planes and trucks have been and perhaps always will be an interest of little boys. In the 1950’s, small versions of vehicles were made of metal and painted carefully, with detailed moving wheels and other articulated pieces. Plastic toys were also beginning to regularly show up on the market.

hubleytoys54
1954 ad for Hubley Toys

And For Girls:

Dolls of the 1950’s were new and exciting! For the first time, rubber and vinyl non-breakable dolls were widely available to little girls everywhere. They were now ready to be played with and loved without the fear of being dropped. And with a new mechanical design, some dolls could even walk! Life-size dolls, that were about the size of a real little girl were such as “Saucy Walker”, were all the rage.

 

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Life Size dolls from a 1956 Sears catalog.

 

Baby dolls that drank and wet were also available on the toy market, such as the famous “Betsy Wetsy”. Dolls with eyes that closed when they lay down were and new exciting feature. And, of course, there were plenty of cute, well sewn clothes to go with them all!

 

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1956 advertisement for Betsy Wetsy.

 

Also for little girls, miniature aluminum kitchenware was available so they could pretend to cook and bake all day – just like Mommy!

 

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1954 Woolworth’s ad for play size pots and pans.

 

More Everyday Household Items:

Small toy versions of other every day items were also available to kids, much like they are today. For example, telephones.

Now here’s a funny story for ya! I found this ad on eBay in 2016 when I first began my journey into the past. I looked at the prices (between $0.89 and $2.98) and I thought: “WOW. Phones sure were inexpensive in the 50’s!”

But upon closer inspection, I discovered what I was looking at were actually TOY PHONES! (You’d think the Jimmie Dodd talking Mickey Mouse phone would have clued me in.) I must’ve laughed for an hour… Sure, things were less expensive then, but not that much less expensive!

 

phonesforsale1957
Advertisement for toy phones, 1957.

 

Career Oriented Toys:

Career-themed toys were also beginning to become popular for both boys and girls, preparing them for their future as adults. Boys could play Doctor, while girls were always the nurse.

Girls also had more accessories than ever for their dolls such as cradles, high chairs, baths, beds and of course, more kitchen stuff to feed their family! These items were made of quality materials-  the doll beds and highchairs were made of solid wood or metal, not plastic.

And don’t forget the dishes! Dish washing sets complete with miniature soap boxes of Ajax, Vel and Brillo were available, gift-packed and ready to give.

 

careertoys53
1953 ad featuring toys that allowed kids to pretend they were “grown-up”.

 

Cowboys!

But what was bar none, THE BIGGEST trend of the 1950’s for youngsters? Why, Cowboys of course! Kids enjoyed dressing up like cowboys and cowgirls from head to toe and pretending that they were fighting for the Old West– just like their favorite television stars.

Toy guns, like the Gene Autry models shown in this 1954 Woolworth’s catalog were an absolute must-have for kids of that generation.

geneautrystuff
Toy guns modeled after those used in the Wild West were hugely popular during the 1950’s, along side many TV shows.

 

Listen to “The Grooveyard” following “Rick’s Redneck Ranch” each Saturday night at 7 PM on 88.1 FM on Long Island, by clicking the 88.1 FM link on wcwp.org or via the TuneIn app.  or the 88.1 FM button on the WCWP app for Android or iPhones.  You can also follow us on Twitter.

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