Two Connecticut natives are being considered for induction into the National Toy Hall of Fame. The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y. has announced its twelve finalists for this year’s induction into the National Toy Hall of Fame, and the Wiffle Ball – invented and still manufactured in Shelton – and the PEZ Candy Dispenser – still the pride of Orange – are among them.
The Strong’s National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, New York, announced the 12 finalists for induction into the hall: Clue, Magic 8 Ball, Matchbox Cars, My Little Pony, paper airplane, PEZ Candy Dispenser, play food, Risk, sand, Transformers, Uno, and Wiffle Ball.
EZ emerged first as a breath mint in 1927, but in 1948, the creators turned it into a candy and added a small, mechanical box to dispense the PEZ bricks. The dispensers featured pop-culture characters, making them both a plaything and collectible. PEZ sells three billion individuals candies each year and keeps about 60 or 70 dispensers in production—such as Batman, Mickey Mouse, and Wonder Woman.
PEZ Candy is manufactured in Orange, Connecticut by PEZ CANDY, INC. and marketed through supermarkets, mass merchandisers, variety stores, drug stores, convenience stores, toy chains and gift stores throughout the U.S. and Canada; available around the world in more than 80 countries.
Whiffle ball? It all began in the summer of 1953, when David N. Mullany, grandfather of the current company owners (brothers David and Stephen) was watching his 12 year old son and a friend play a game in their backyard in Fairfield, using a perforated plastic golf ball and a broomstick handle. They had given up on baseball and softball – not enough players for two teams, not enough space for a field, and too many broken windows.
After some trial and error, Wiffle Ball’s inventors determined that a ball with eight oblong slots cut into one hemisphere worked best at grabbing the air and diverting the trajectory. Pitchers then could easily throw curves, sliders, or even difficult knuckle balls, and the rest is history – perhaps Hall of Fame worthy history. Even with the abundance of toys and rapidly expanding new technology available to today’s youth, the Wiffle Ball business remains strong, with millions manufactured in Shelton and distributed world-wide every year.
The National Toy Hall of Fame receives thousands of nominations annually. Whiffle Ball was nominated, but not selected, in 2015. The final 2017 toy inductees, chosen on the advice of a national selection advisory committee, will be announced at The Strong museum on Thursday, November 9. Only two or three of these finalists will join other iconic toys in the hall and sit alongside past inductees such as Barbie, LEGO, Monopoly, Rubik’s Cube, and Star Wars action figures.
The Strong’s National Toy Hall of Fame recognizes toys that have engaged and delighted multiple generations, inspiring them to learn, create, and discover through play. Criteria for induction include: Icon-status (the toy is widely recognized, respected, and remembered); Longevity (the toy is more than a passing fad and has enjoyed popularity over multiple generations); Discovery (the toy fosters learning, creativity, or discovery through play); and Innovation (the toy profoundly changed play or toy design).
To date, the following 63 toys have been inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame: alphabet blocks, Atari 2600 Game System, baby doll, ball, Barbie, bicycle, Big Wheel, blanket, bubbles, Candy Land, cardboard box, checkers, chess, Crayola Crayons, dollhouse, dominoes, Duncan Yo-Yo, Dungeons & Dragons, Easy-Bake Oven, Erector Set, Etch A Sketch, Fisher-Price Little People, Frisbee, G.I. Joe, The Game of Life, Hot Wheels, hula hoop, jack-in-the-box, jacks, jigsaw puzzle, jump rope, kite, LEGO, Lincoln Logs, Lionel Trains, little green army men, marbles, Monopoly, Mr. Potato Head, Nintendo Game Boy, Play-Doh, playing cards, puppet, Radio Flyer Wagon, Raggedy Ann and Andy, rocking horse, roller skates, rubber duck, Rubik’s Cube, Scrabble, Silly Putty, skateboard, Slinky, Star Wars action figures, stick, Super Soaker, swing, teddy bear, Tinkertoy, Tonka Trucks, Twister, and View-Master.