As we close out the month of September (don’t even try that “wake up Billie Joe Armstrong” har-dee-har shit. You’re better than that.), we bring you another installment of “My Favorite Round”. The round ran at the beginning of the month and it looked ahead to “holidays” celebrated during September. You know, stuff like “Pink Cadillac Day” and “National Dogs in Politics Day,” because we take ourselves way too seriously around here. One of the questions taught us about a day celebrating a legendary toy brand. Let’s shape up and learn something.
We know that you commemorated National Play-Doh Day on September 16 — I mean, who doesn’t? — but we might not circle that day on the calendar every year if Play-Doh had always been used the way its inventor intended.
In 1933, a Cincinnati company called Kutol Products scored a big contract making a wallpaper cleaner for the Kroger supermarket chain. Wallpaper was a big thing in home decor and — fortunately for Kutol — so was using coal for heat, which left that wallpaper looking like Santa’s inseams on Christmas morning.
But by the mid-1950s, coal was being phased out in favor of gas or oil heating systems. Things were looking grim for Kutol, because most of their inventory (and annual income) was based on people having nasty-ass wallpaper. Fortunately for Kutol exec Joe McVicker, his sister-in-law came up with an even better idea.
According to Cincinnati.com, Kay Zufall, a nursery school teacher, discovered that the kids in her classes really liked using Kutol’s cleaning putty in their art projects, and it was easier to work with than standard modeling clay. In 1956, the product was repackaged under the name Kutol’s Rainbow Modeling Compound. and sold by the gallon to schools in Cincinnati. (Kay also told McVicker that the ‘Rainbow’ name sucked, and she suggested Play-Doh instead.)
“It’s a tale of technological obsolescence with a happy ending,” Christopher Bensch, the vice president of collections at Rochester, New York’s Strong National Museum of Play, told Smithsonian Magazine. “Fortunately, the sister-in-law realized it would make a better toy than a cleaning product. That turned the company’s fortunes around.”
The division of Kutol that made Play-Doh was sold to General Mills, and then eventually bought by Hasbro, who still own it. And let’s be honest: there’s no way anybody would give a shit about National Wallpaper Cleaner Day.