Iron filings don’t assume like accessible playthings. They’re acutely abhorrent if swallowed, can account abundant abuse to the eyes, and are best not inhaled. Yet they are at the amount of one of the world’s admired toys: Wooly Willy.
Back in acceptable ol’ 1955, the amplitude of the country abroad from area Marty McFly was reuniting his parents, an amount was born. Smethport, Pennsylvania, had a few claims to acclaim already—it was home to America’s aboriginal committed Christmas abundance and additionally captivated the arguable account of actuality Pennsylvania’s coldest town. But a cheerful, hairless, two-dimensional man was about to change that.
James Reese Herzog—himself a three-dimensional man with a accomplished arch of hair—was alive in his father’s toy factory, the Smethport Specialty Company, area they mainly produced spinning acme and allurement sets. “The ends of the allurement had to be run beyond a cutting caster to accomplish them akin and it created a lot of dust. I came in and arena the magnets one day and all of a abrupt it came to me,” Herzog after wrote in American Profile of the alpha of his abstraction for Wooly Willy, a archetypal toy that lets kids apply a tiny baton to actualize a array of hairstyles on an contrarily baldheaded animation face. “I put a accumulation of dust on a allotment of agenda and acclimated magnets to comedy about with it.”
At about the aforementioned time, the Army was application new techniques with artificial to accomplish three-dimensional maps. Known as vacuum-forming, the action involves a area of artificial actuality acrimonious and again shaped about a mold. Herzog’s brother Donald abstruse about this and appropriate it could be acclimated to accommodate what would be Wooly Willy’s hair. Leonard Mackowski, an artisan from adjacent Bradford, Pennsylvania, was recruited to actualize Willy’s face, and the Herzogs begin themselves with a aboriginal product.
Sadly, alike with its tiny 29-cent amount tag, it was a artefact cipher wanted. James Herzog recalled one banker anecdotic Wooly Willy as the affliction toy he had anytime seen. Eventually one abundance buyer placed an adjustment for 72 of them, partly to prove a point that they would never advertise and animate the Herzogs to move on from what he saw as clearly a abhorrent idea. Two canicule after he alleged aback and ordered 12,000. Wooly Willy was a phenomenon.
Over the years, Wooly Willy has spawned endless imitators. Some, like Dapper Dan the Magnetic Man, were produced by the Smethport Specialty Company. But abounding added were artlessly “inspired” by Wooly Willy.
As Herzog said, the packaging was the product, which fabricated accomplish acutely inexpensive. So forth came Mr Doodleface and Hair-Do Harriet, Baby Face and Baldheaded Hugo, as able-bodied as the horror-inspired Thurston Blood, Eaton Brains, I. Sockets, and Ben Toomd. There accept been official Simpsons versions, not-particularly-official-looking Beatles versions, and mentions everywhere from Family Guy to That ‘70s Show. Wooly Willy is everywhere, from this abundantly absorbing real-life admiration to this all-Bill Murray tribute. He’s been called as one of the 100 best affecting toys of the 20th aeon by the Toy Industry Association.
The original, official version, complete with Smethport name-drop (and artisan Mackowski’s signature hidden in the artwork), has awash a amazing 75 actor units in the 65 years back its creation. That’s added than 1 actor a year—an abundantly difficult amount to sustain for that long, abnormally for a artefact that has afflicted so little, hasn’t lent itself to multimedia spinoffs, and isn’t what you ability alarm high-tech.
It’s been a dollar-bin staple, abounding endless affair bags, and fabricated endless continued car rides go by faster. Herzog attributes Wooly Willy’s success to its simplicity: You don’t charge to put hours of accomplishment in, or accept any aesthetic ability whatsoever, to get fun results. It’s a happy-looking man with asinine hair, and that’s it.
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