News & Politics

Etch A Sketch, Teddy Bears and Lincoln Logs: A History Of Presidential Toys


In a brief break from the depressing news we’ve been covering lately, we wanted to weigh in on presidential toys. You may have heard that Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom had something to say about Etch A Sketch yesterday.

“I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign,” Fehrnstrom said, before dropping the pixelated bomb that seems to typify how the Romney camp bungles their campaign the day after a win when they should be celebrating: “Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch a Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”

Etch A Sketch was happy to be front and center, releasing this statementt:

Happy to see Etch A Sketch, an American classic toy, is DRAWING attention with political candidates as a cultural icon and important piece of our society. A profound toy, highly recognized and loved by all, is now SHAKING up the national debate. Nothing is as quintessentially American as Etch A Sketch and a good old fashion political debate.

Like most things “quintessentially American,” Etch A Sketch toys are, of course, manufactured in China.

Still, it’s worth noting that Etch A Sketch is only the most recent in a long line of toys made famous by presidential playtime.

Lincoln Logs

According to the manufacturer’s website,

“Lincoln Logs was invented in 1916 by John Lloyd Wright, the son of one of America’s most famous architects, Frank Lloyd Wright. The idea of Lincoln Logs came to the younger Wright as he observed the building techniques used to construct the Imperial Palace Hotel in Tokyo. The product is named after Abraham Lincoln, the President who began his celebrated life in a log cabin in Kentucky.”

The Teddy Bear

No, the Teddy Bear wasn’t developed for President Obama (though #44 is, we imagine, the first president to have a Chia Pet made in his image). According to the Teddy Roosevelt Association,

President Theodore Roosevelt, went on a bear hunt…Because he was the President of the United States, the people organizing the hunt wanted to make sure the hunt was successful.

But after 3 days of walking and climbing and riding, no bears were found. Now what? The President’s bear hunt would be a failure!

The next day the hunt guide and his hunting dogs finally found an old bear. The dogs and guide followed the bear for quite a distance until the bear was very, very tired. The dogs attacked and injured the old bear. The guides tied the bear to a tree and called for the President. Here was a bear for him to shoot!

President Roosevelt looked at the poor old bear and said “no!” No one would shoot this old bear for sport. That would not be right. However, the bear was injured and suffering. President Roosevelt ordered that the bear be put down to end its pain.

A political cartoonist by the name of Clifford Berryman heard this story. A political cartoonist draws about current events in the news. Mr. Berryman drew a cartoon showing how President Roosevelt refused to shoot the bear while hunting in Mississippi…After this famous cartoon appeared in the papers, a shopkeeper, Morris Michtom took two stuffed toy bears which his wife had made and put them in his shop window. He had an idea.

Mr. Michtom asked for permission from President Theodore Roosevelt to call these toy bears “Teddy’s bears”. This store eventually became the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company.

Socks, The First Cat of the Clinton White House

If our memory serves us right from our teenage years, Socks the cat was the first First Pet to have his own toy and marketed during his years in the White House. By the time Bo Obama came about, first pet toys were as old and worn as a dog’s chew toy.

Bo Obama, The First Dog

We’re sure more toys will become White House famous as the presidential race grinds on. We’re waiting for the day this Barbie set will have its moment in the sun.

It feature a “Ken doll in a modern board shorts and flip flops.” Romney’s got the flip flops covered, and for a 65-year-old man, he looks impressively like Ken.

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