Skip to main content

Main Area


Holiday gift crazes and fads of the past 100 years

  • Holiday gift crazes and fads of the past 100 years

    The holidays are coming, and just like every year before this one, there’s sure to be a new gift craze or fad taking the country by storm. To celebrate all things holiday gift, researched the crazes and fads of years past, from 1918 to now.

    The information here comes from lists of both the hardest to find and the most popular Christmas gifts; the National Toy Hall of Fame’s toy list and Toy of the Year awards; inventions that became immediately popular; and lists of the 100 all-time greatest toys. The gifts included span ages, ranging from toddler to a few specifically for adults, and put together, we see a unique snapshot of trends from each year throughout the past century, from building bricks to electronics.

    You may best know little green army men and the iconic Mr. Potato Head from the “Toy Story” franchise movies, but did you that know the miniature soldiers were first produced in the 1930s, and that the customizable face was the first toy advertised on TV about 15 years after? What about that the 1980s saw the debut of Transformers, Koosh ball, and Nintendo? The longevity of many of these gifts speaks volumes: Despite more recent advances in technology and complexity of designs for holiday crazes like Xbox, iPad, and drones, we still desire the utility and joy from gifts as simple as Legos, Polaroid Cameras, and Wiffle Balls.

    Whether you want to take a trip down memory lane, discover the fads of your family’s older generations, or brush up on the hottest trends for the youngest in your family, this list is for you. Read on to see just how early the pogo stick was invented, how a pet rock came to be all the rage, and how a song about aquatic offspring has now transcended children’s melody and become part of a gift craze all its own.

    You may also like: How Pride is celebrated around the globe in 25 photos

  • 1919: Meccano sets

    This predecessor to the Erector Set was first produced in the early 1900s, invented by Frank Hornby in the United Kingdom. In 1919, Hornby formed the Meccano Guild to encourage boys of all ages (up to adults) to gather together and get to building.

  • 1920: Raggedy Andy

    In 1920, Raggedy Ann gained a brother. Cartoonist and illustrator Johnny Gruelle began to publish the “Raggedy Andy Stories,” as a complement to Raggedy Ann, and an Andy doll came, too. Adults snapped them up so their kids could have a matching Ann and Andy set.

    [Pictured: Custom-made Raggedy Andy doll (left)]

  • 1921: Chanel No. 5

    The invention of Chanel No. 5 was a game-changer in elite circles of women. Now, they could smell fresh and clean all the time, thanks to the assistant of Coco Chanel’s perfumer who accidentally added a higher chemical dose to the mixture. Chanel marketed it immediately, and it was cleared off the shelves once the holidays came around.

  • 1922: Pogo stick

    The pogo stick was invented in 1919 in Germany, but the first shipment arrived with warped wood and couldn’t be sold. More orders came in the following few years, with a newly designed product made from metal, and by 1922 pogo sticks were the most popular outdoor toy for children and adults and featured prominently in magazine and newspaper ads.

  • 1923: Chemistry set

    In 1923, A.C. Gilbert (the former Erector Set inventor) flexed his edutainment muscles once more and created a toy chemistry set, just for boys. It gained instant popularity, even though it was profoundly unsafe; it contained chemicals that set things on fire and also ones that are used to make bombs.

    You may also like: Most imported endangered animals to America

  • 1924: Flossie Flirt Doll

    The Ideal Company produced Flossie Flirt in 1924, launched just in time for Christmas. The doll flirted with her eyes, darting them from side to side, winking, and blinking. Flossie Flirt was so popular that year that some newspapers published “Doll Lady” schedules, outlining where and when dealers who sold the doll would be available.

  • 1925: Electric train set

    Electric train sets took over the toy market in 1925 from three separate companies: Hornby (of former Meccano fame), American Flyer, and Lionel. The trains were expensive, though; one set cost about an average month’s salary.

  • 1926: Winnie-the-Pooh

    By the time “Winnie-the-Pooh” was published in 1926, the bear was already popular, having been made famous by A.A. Milne’s poetry and newspaper stories. Winnie and his friends were inspired by a set of stuffed toys Milne’s son, Christopher Robin, had in his nursery.

  • 1927: Brownie camera

    When the Brownie camera, invented in 1900 by Kodak, was released, it was the first time the public at large could enjoy photography as a hobby, thanks to its non-prohibitive price point. The first model sold well, but the Brownie 2c model, which hit the market in 1927, did even better.

  • 1928: Dubble Bubble

    In the candy world for the 1928 holiday season, everyone wanted Dubble Bubble. The gum was created accidentally by Walter Diemer at Fleer Chewing Gum Company and was stretchier, less sticky, and more prone to bubbles than regular chewing gum at the time. The first five-pound batch available sold out in one afternoon.

    You may also like: What the world was like when your grandparents were born