Below are the main books on toys–those that were most helpful to me, and those that I think other Boomers would enjoy.
This is not a comprehensive list. You won’t find every book every written on Mattel and its founders, for example. These are just the ones I drew on for the facts that are in the book:
First off, here are my favorite and most helpful general books:
Tim Walsh wrote two wonderful books about toys:
- Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them, a decade-by-decade chronicle of select 20th century toys and their designers. Walsh did his best to interview the inventors, look at their patents, and get to the truth. The book is filled with pictures, and clearly designed for the coffee table.
- Wham-O Super-Book: Celebrating 60 Years Inside the Fun Factory! [WHAM O SUPER BK], another great photo-filled book about an iconic pair of toymakers and their company.
A hard-to-find book about toys–written in 1973, published by Stein & Day, and long out of print, is A toy is born by Marvin Kaye. Your library is probably your best source for this one, though I stuck an Amazon link in, just in case.
Toy Wars: The Epic Struggle Between G.I. Joe, Barbie, and the Companies That Make Them by G. Wayne Miller, used the development of the GI Joe toy to tie together an epic history of Hasbro, Mattel, and the toy industry of the mid and late 20th century.
That was my short list of faves. Some other general toy books:
The Toy Book: A Celebration of Slinky and G.I. Joe, Tinker Toys, Hula Hoops, Bar. Since it seems to be out-of-print, I will add that the authors are Gil Asakawa and Leland Rucker, and that it was published in 1992 by Knopf.
Also from the early 90s: Toyland: The High-Stakes Game of the Toy Industry, by Sidney Ladensohn Stern and Ted Schoenhaus.
Don Wullfson has several books on toy-type inventions. I read Toys!: Amazing Stories Behind Some Great Inventions, which is now available as an ebook.
American Fads by Richard Johnson talks about the things we went crazy for–like Slinkies, Troll Dolls, Hula Hoops, and more.
Along the same lines, there’s Why Didn’t I Think of That?. Careful–there are about five books with the same name. This one is by Robert Shook and was published in 1973, revised and redone in 1982.
The 1961 Toys in America had some useful stats, but it’s so dated I can’t even find it on Amazon. The authors were Inez and Marshall McLintock, and the publisher was the DC Public Affairs Press.
Susan Waggoner has two mid-century holiday books out:It’s a Wonderful Christmas: The Best of the Holidays 1940-1965 and Christmas Memories: Gifts, Activities, Fads, and Fancies, 1920s-1960s.
For pictures and a merry stroll down Memory Lane, you may want to check out some of the books assembled by Thomas Holland, such as Boys’ Toys of the Fifties and Sixties: Memorable Catalog Pages from the Legendary Sears Christmas Wishbooks 1950-1969. Published by Windmill Press in the late 1990s, the books are mostly reproductions of catalog pages from Sears and Montgomery Wards.
Here are books specific to certain toys and companies, pretty much in alphabetical order:
Barbie and Mattel, and really, you can’t discuss one without the other. There are many, many books but these are the ones I used:
Barbie A Rare Beauty by Sandi Holder
The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie: A Doll’s History and Her Impact on Us by Tanya Lee Stone
Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll, by M. G. Lord
Toy Monster: The Big, Bad World of Mattel by Jerry Oppenheimer
Bicycle: The History by David Herlihy
Classic American Bicycles (Enthusiast Color)by Jay Pridmore.
Dolls in General:
Flat Flip Flies Straight!: True Origins of the Frisbee by Fred Morrison, who invented the things.
The LEGO Book by Daniel Lipkowitz, who’s also written books called Lego Play and Lego Ideas. This is the one that traces the history of the company.
Skateboards and Skateboarding: The Complete Beginner’s Guide by Lavada Weir.
Tonka by Dennis David and Lloyd Laumann
All Aboard for Christmas by Christopher Jennison
Visible Man and Renwal:
Renwal World’s Finest Toys by collector Charles F. Donovan Jr.
That’s it for BOOKS. I’ll post lists of articles from newspapers, magazines, and online sources soon.