Ah Play-Doh, a classic childhood toy that many of us molded into snowmen or fun shapes (or ate, because those bright colors were so enticing) during playtime. At my house at least it seems like it got stuck in anything and everything; the carpet, blankets, my digestive system. But one place I never recall Play-Doh being squished is the wall, which is kind of ironic since that was its original purpose.
Back in the 1930s while the country was suffering under the Great Depression and World War II seemed like a nasty rumor, the Kroger grocery company had a plan. At the time, coal-based heating was a popular way to keep homes toasty in the winter. The downside, however, was that coal residue seemed to always find itself on the home’s wallpaper. There wasn’t really a quick and easy way to clean this soot without risking damage to the walls, and this is where Kutol Products came in. Kroger enlisted Kutol to come up with a wallpaper cleaner that they could carry in their stores and sell to the masses. After a little R&D, Kutol came up with a putty that you could stick onto the wall and peel away, effectively taking the coal residue with it. Not a bad idea at all, and I’m sure that it saved many a flowered wallpaper from a disastrous fate. However, after World War II, the nation saw a shift from the coal-based heating of the past to natural gas. With this new technology, there wasn’t really a need for coal cleaning devices since there wasn’t any more coal residue. Sales plummeted until the CEO of Kutol’s nephew came up with a genius repurposing idea for the product. After observing nursery school children playing with the putty, he suggested that it be rebranded as a children’s toy and alas Play-Doh was born. After its debut in the 1950s it quickly became a household name. Even today, 70 years later, children around the world continue to pass the time making shapes out of the moldable toy. If it happens to make it into a child’s mouth (like it did mine) don’t worry, it’s non-toxic.
Sources/Where to head to learn more:
Play-Doh was originally supposed to clean your walls, Chicago Tribune
Play-Doh Was Originally…Wallpaper Cleaner?, Shana Ecker (Huffington Post)
Play-Doh Was Originally Sold As Wallpaper Cleaner, Adrian (Ripleys)