Toys of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s

On Display
Exhibition Type
Limited Time Exhibition
Time Period
1925 to Today
Domestic Life
Sports & Leisure
An image of Mr. Potato Head pins on a carrot, a toy robot, and a toy Troll doll with pink hair around the words "Toys of the '50s, '60s, and '70s"

About the Exhibition: Gumby. Barbie. Slinky. Mr. Potato Head. Wham-O. Spirograph. Hot Wheels. The names of popular toys from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s capture the craziness, the joy, the sheer fun of being a kid. But beneath those nutty names are rich veins of nostalgia, memory, and history. The stories of the kids who played with these toys, the adults who bought them, the child-rearing experts who judged them, and the people who invented them reflect the rhythms of American life. Through this exhibition, visitors experienced the toys and their stories through three imagined living rooms that brought the decades back to life. This exhibition was produced by the Minnesota History Center.

Exhibition Videos

Take a closer look at the Toys exhibition with these staff highlights, games, and more!

As a result of the overwhelmingly positive public response to the 2017 special exhibition, Toys of the '50s, '60s and '70s, the VMHC (then VHS) extended the exhibition's run and commissioned Allen Jessee—a Richmond native, sculptor, and founder of MCS Design and Production Inc.—to produce an enormous one-of-a-kind Gumby to mark the occasion. The giant Gumby measured 18 feet tall and weighed approximately 300 pounds. Installation on the front steps of the museum took place on May 15, 2017.  [Music: "Funky Chunk," Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0]

Enjoy this promo video of the exhibition.

Take a tour through the "Toys of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s" exhibition with the VMHC's Andrew Talkov as he shares some of his favorite items.

Watch Chewbacca, Mr. Potato Head, Gumby, and Pokey compete in the Toys of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s Olympics. 

The VMHC (formerly the VHS) is the perfect place to have a date. Watch how Barbie and Ken find their perfect match in the "Toys of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s" exhibition

Enjoy this highlight reel from the Toys of the '50s, '60s and '70s exhibition Fun Run at the VMHC (then VHS), featuring Mr. Potato Head, Chewbacca, Gumby, and Pokey. Special thanks to the Richmond Police Department Mounted Unit and Sports Backers.

Explore the Exhibition

Through an exhibition design that recreated living rooms of each decade, visitors could immerse themselves in the environments of pop culture in America in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

An exhibition display designed like a 1950s living room with couch, coffee and side tables, tv, and rug from the decade
1950s living room

The 1950s living room examined how the postwar economic boom affected families and toy sales.

A color photograph of Gumby and Pokey
Gumby and Pokey

Gumby originated as a clay animation character created by Art Clokey. 

A color photograph of Mr. Potato Head
Mr. Potato Head

In 1952, Mr. Potato Head became the first toy to be advertised on television. The kit became an immediate hit, with more than 1,000,000 sold in the first year. 

A display case filled with various Mr. Potato Head toys
Mr. Potato Head

Mr. Potato Head was was originally made as separate plastic parts with pushpins that could be stuck into a real potato or other vegetable.

A color photograph of Barbie

Barbie debuted on March 9, 1959, at the New York Toy Fair.

An exhibition display designed like a 1960s living room with couch, coffee and side tables, tv, and rug from the decade
1960s living room

The 1960s living room examined how this fractured decade affected toy options for America's youth.

A color photograph of Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots
Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots

Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots was the creation of Marvin Glass & Associates in the late 1960s.

The Alpha-1 Ballistic Missile toy in a display case with wall labels
Alpha-1 Ballistic Missile toy

The push to put an American on the moon by the end of the decade created a huge surge in toy rocket sales in the 1960s.

An exhibition display designed like a 1970s living room with couch, side tables, tv, wall art, and rug from the decade
1970s living room

The 1970s living room examined the toys created during a time when children's time with toys was spent away from home, in the company of their peers.

A color photograph of the Simon game
Simon game

The Simon game was introduced by Milton Bradley in 1978. The toy plays a musical sequence that the player must repeat by pressing colored buttons.

A set of Star Wars Figurines, including Luke Skywalker, C-3PO, R2-D2, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, Princess Leia, and Han Solo
Star Wars Figurines

The Kenner toy company wisely picked up the licensing rights for Star Wars figures. The 12-figure set was highly prized by collectors of all ages.