Toy Hall of Famers: Dollhouse, Hot Wheels, blanket


The blanket, an all-purpose plaything as well as a comfort for generations of thumb-suckers like Charlie Brown's best friend from the "Peanuts" comic-strip, has landed in upstate New York's National Toy Hall of Fame, along with Hot Wheels and the dollhouse.

The trio take their places at The Strong, a children's museum in Rochester, alongside 46 classics ranging from the bicycle, kite and teddy bear to Barbie, Jack-in-the-Box and Mr. Potato Head.

Curators said the blanket was a special addition in the spirit of two earlier inductees, the cardboard box and the stick. They praised its ability to serve either as recreational raw material or an accessory transformed in myriad ways by a child's imagination.

The 13-year-old hall was acquired by the museum in 2002 from A.C. Gilbert's Discovery Village in Salem, Ore.

Ten other nominees that fell short in 2011 included more than a few heavyweights, including the puppet, the pogo stick and Rubik's Cube.

Longevity is a key criterion for getting into the hall. Each toy must be widely recognized, foster learning, creativity or discovery through play, and endure in popularity over generations.

Trying to create a toy that would be as big a success with boys as Barbie was with girls, Elliot Handler hit upon an idea for miniature die-cast vehicles with sleek designs. Hot Wheels were introduced in 1968 and the brand became a big hit.

Handler, who died in July at age 95, grew Mattel Inc. into the nation's largest toy maker along with his wife, Ruth, who created the Barbie doll in 1959.

The dollhouse evolved from 16th-century "baby houses," wooden cabinets in which wealthy European women displayed their collections of miniature furnishings.

German toy makers produced a variation for youngsters to furnish with tiny chairs, tables, beds, tapestries and floor coverings and, by the 19th century, mass-production methods enabled dollhouses to grow in variety and popularity.

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