The Interesting History of Play-Doh

When the name “Play-Doh is mentioned,” a bright yellow container with a colorful lid appears somewhere in our mind. Play-Doh is the kind of toy that doesn’t even need an introduction; almost everyone knows what it is and how to play with it. 

Play-Doh is a modeling clay compound for kids, usually used for arts and crafts projects. It was first manufactured as a wallpaper-cleaner, in Cincinnati, United States, during the 1930s. However, during the 50s, the product was reworked and was marketed as Play-Doh, a modeling compound for kids. After which, learning with Play-Doh became a part of the arts and crafts education. Most people don’t know about the interesting history that Play-Doh holds, but today we will tell that history to you. So, let’s get started.

History of Play-Doh 

Play-Doh_Original_CanisterYou might not believe it but, Play-Doh was present and used in almost all the houses even before it was considered a toy for kids. Before Play-Doh was named Play-Doh, the compound was used as a wallpaper cleaner. Tim Walsh mentioned in his book Timeless Toys that, during the 20s, Cincinnati (an Ohio-based Kutol Products soap company) was about to go bankrupt when Cleo McVicker signed a contract with Kroger grocery stores to make ready-made wallpaper cleaner to be sold and marketed at their stores. 

Although the company had never manufactured wallpaper cleaner before, the formula introduced by Noah McVicker became a success. The wallpaper cleaner was made out of flour, salt, and water and the final product was a non-toxic, clay-like, malleable compound. The wallpaper cleaner was quite a success and kept the company stable for almost twenty years; however, the sales started to fluctuate somewhere during the early 50s, with the advent of oil and gas. Oil and gas had replaced coal, and wallpapers didn’t get as dirty as before, which caused the sale of wallpaper cleaner to plummet. 

In 1949, after Cleo’s death, Joseph McVicker took over the company. This was the time when Kay Zufall, McVicker’s sister-in-law, convinced him to think of a product that allows kids to craft and play with it. Joseph then thought over the idea and decided to repurpose and reformulate the wallpaper cleaner formula. The space and heavy-duty were the same; however, the final product was a toy instead of wallpaper cleaner. 

In 1956, Joseph McVicker founded the Rainbow Crafts Company Inc. This was a subsidiary of Kutol products, and the products manufactured by it were repackaged. The product manufactured by Rainbow Crafts was named Play-Doh and was marketed in elementary schools throughout the greater Cincinnati area. 

In a year, the company introduced Play-Doh in many different colors, including blue, yellow, and red. The product was quite famous among schools. However, Joseph McVicker wanted a larger audience for his product, but the lack of budget was a problem. This was when Joseph’s creativity helped him again. He decided to introduce the product to Bob Keeshan, also known as Captain Kangaroo. The toy was then marketed through the most popular children’s show Captain Kangaroo, and the sales skyrocketed after that. 

In 1960, McVicker hired two engineers who designed a multi-purpose product named the Fun Factory. The Fun Factory allowed the kids to create several shapes and designs without putting in too much force. 

Subsequent Development of Play-Doh 

After being a success in the US, in 1964, Play-Doh was first exported to France, Britain, and Italy. In 1965, the company was bought by General Mills for 3 million dollars, while in 1971, Kenner Products and Rainbow Crafts merged, and later Tonka Corporation bought both companies. 

In 1980, the packaging was changed, and the cardboard cans were replaced with plastic containers. Later in 1991, Hasbro bought the company and continues to manufacture Play-Doh to this date. 

Some Fun Facts About Play-Doh 


Like any other fascinating invention, Play-Doh also has some fun facts that most people don’t know about. They are as follows:

  • Play-Doh wasn’t intended to be an art/craft toy for children at first. It was used as a wallpaper cleaner until the 50s when oil, gas, and vinyl wallpapers emerged in the market.
  • Play-Doh, when first launched, was not available in so many colors as today. It only came in only white color. However, later, new colors were introduced. 
  • Captain Kangaroo was the reason why Play-Doh became so famous. After a deal with McVicker, Captain Kangaroo used Play-Doh in his show, and soon after that, it became one of the most bought toys in the US. 
  • Play-Doh is not made out of some weird chemicals but from food ingredients. The main ingredients of the dough include flour, salt, and water. 
  • There is a larger-than-life Play-Doh in Disney’s Pop Century Resort. The hotel has a vintage Play-Doh container along with Play-Doh Pete in it. 

Why is Play-Doh So Popular?

Since 1970, over 950 million pounds of Play-Doh have been sold, resulting in it becoming one of the most famous toys around the world. Unlike video games and other complicated gadgets, Play-Doh is maybe the most creative and wholesome way of learning and playing at the same time. 

Learning with Play-Doh was always the main concept of the toy, and even today, the purpose is alive. The Play-Doh playsets brought a lot of fame to the toy as they allowed the kids to experience the fun of creating new things. Play-Doh is still popular due to its several benefits in the learning phase of kids. 

Learning With Play-Doh 


Learning with Play-Doh supports the learning and development of a kid in several ways. Children who play with Play-Doh are most likely to explore their creativity and have more ideas than the kids who don’t involve in such learning. Playing in groups with Play-Doh also allows the kids to compare, contrast, communicate and be artistic. Play-Doh enables kids to satisfy their curiosity and come up with new ideas. We can say that learning with Play-Doh is actually an exercise for young minds to be more creative. 

Moreover, Play-Doh learning also allows the children to be more competent and be proud of what they are good at. Squeezing, rolling, and pounding the Play-Doh lets the extra energy go in safe outlets.  


Play-Doh is a sign of nostalgia, which, when mentioned, brings hundreds of memories from childhood. For most of the 90s kids, Play-Doh was a part of their childhood. Even today, almost every pre-school uses the Play-Doh learning trick to help the kids develop more creativity and other social skills. A product that wasn’t even meant to be a toy at first became a significant part of millions of childhoods all around the world. 

While squishing, rolling, and making things with Play-Doh, kids make memories, make their ideas come to life, and connect. From our point of view, the main reason behind the popularity of Play-Doh was the productivity and mind-development that it offers to the kids who play with it. We can bet that you, as an adult, also love to play with Play-Doh and create stuff because the kid inside us is always ready to do some fun stuff.