Saturday, April 24, 2010

Wooly Willy

Wooly Willy is a toy in which metal filings are moved about with a magnetic wand to add features to a cartoon face. The toy was originally manufactured in Smethport, Pennsylvania and was launched on the toy market in 1955. It remains in production as of 2005.

The brothers Donald and James Herzog developed Wooly Willy while working in the Smethport Specialty Company, their father's toy production company, in Smethport, Pennsylvania, United States. The company produced tops, horseshoe-shaped magnets, and other toys until the vacuum forming devices of the 1940s and 1950s allowed the company to manufacture air-tight containers of transparent plastic. Such containers kept Wooly Willy's metal filings from leaking out and moisture that would rust the metal from leaking in. The artwork for the first Wooly Willy was created by artist Leonard Mackowsk.

Priced at US$ 0.29, Wooly Willy was successfully launched on the market in 1955. A buyer for G. C. Murphy dime store chain initially purchased six dozen of the toy and expected not to sell them for a year. The buyer called Herzog just two days later and ordered a thousand dozen for nationwide distribution. F. W. Woolworth Company also distributed the toy. More than 75 million Wooly Willies have been sold.

Funny Face, Brunette Betty, and Dapper Dan were similar toys. Dapper Dan was featured on a 10-1/2" x 14" display card and was billed on the card as a "secret agent, chosen because of his easily disguised face. Alter his appearance to help him carry out his investigations." Pictures on the card depicted Dapper Dan as a scientist, detective, magician, and other characters.

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