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Toy Industry Workers

History

Recreational games have roots in ancient cultures. For example, backgammon, one of the oldest known board games, dates back about 5,000 years to areas around the Mediterranean. Chess developed in about the sixth century in India or China and was based on other ancient games.

Dolls and figurines also have turned up among old artifacts. Some seem to have been used as playthings, while others apparently had religious or symbolic importance. More recently, European kings and noblemen gave elaborate dolls in fancy costumes as gifts. Fashion styles thus were spread through other regions and countries. Doll makers in cities such as Paris, France, and Nuremberg, Germany, became famous for crafting especially beautiful dolls. Over the years dolls have been made of wood, clay, china, papier-mâché, wax, and hard rubber, and they have been collected and admired by adults as well as children.

For centuries, most toys were made by hand at home. Mass production began in the 19th century during the Industrial Revolution. In the 20th century, one of the most enduringly popular toys was the teddy bear, named after President Theodore Roosevelt.

Toy companies generally devise their own products or adapt them from perennial favorites, but they occasionally buy ideas for new toys and games from outsiders. One famous example is the creation of the board game Monopoly, which is of complicated origin. In 1903, Elizabeth Magie invented the Landlord's Game, a board game in protest of capitalist monopolies at the turn of the century. Her income from the game was estimated to be about $500. The Landlord's Game is the foundation for Monopoly. However, during the Great Depression, Charles Darrow, an out-of-work man, reportedly created the board game Monopoly in his kitchen, using the names of streets of his hometown to act out fantasies of being a real estate and business tycoon. He sold the game to Parker Brothers and became a millionaire. To date, Darrow is still credited as the inventor of one of the most popular games of all time.

The popularity of certain toys rises and falls over time. Some toys maintain their popularity with successive generations of children or experience a comeback after a few years. Computer and video games have boomed during the past decade and will undoubtedly continue to become more complex and realistic as technology advances. Still, it is very difficult to predict which new toys will become popular. Introducing a new toy into the marketplace is a gamble, and that adds excitement and pressure to the industry.

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