The History of Mr. Potato Head

Patented in 1952, Head Sold Separately

A Mr. Potato Head float at a Thanksgiving Day parade
Gilbert Carrasquillo/Moment Mobile/Getty Images

Did you know that the original Mr. Potato Head was missing a head? The original model didn't come with the familiar brown plastic potato.

George Lerner Invents a Headless Precursor

George Lerner of New York City invented a precursor to Mr. Potato Head called “make a face”: Children got a collection of plastic face pieces as a prize in a box of cereal, and their parents had to provide a potato—or whatever other fruit or vegetable they had on hand—to stick them in.

Hasbro Buys and Sells a Styrofoam Mr. Potato Head

In 1951 Lerner sold his toy idea to Hassenfeld Brothers, a Rhode Island toy company that would later change its name to Hasbro, and Mr. Potato Head went into production in 1952. Hasbro sold the first Mr. Potato Head with a styrofoam head as a base for the facial plug-ins. However, instructions were included that suggested the use of vegetables and fruits instead of the styrofoam.

The First TV Ad for Children

Mr. Potato Head was the first toy to be advertised on television, and the first advertisement aimed directly at children. The ads worked: The toy sold more than a million units in its first year. Mrs. Potato Head arrived the next year, and other spin-off family members followed. 

The Modern Mr. Potato Head

The familiar plastic potato was introduced in 1964, after government safety regulations forced the company to use less sharp pieces, which could not pierce real vegetables. This had the added benefit of no longer wasting food, and spared parents from having to deal with their children playing with rotting vegetables.

Mr. Potato Head has become a staple of American culture over the years. In 1985, he received four write-in votes in the mayoral election in the potato hotbed of Boise, Idaho. He also had a starring role in all three Toy Story movies, where he was voiced by veteran character actor Don Rickles. Today, Hasbro, Inc. still manufactures Mr. Potato Head.