Art and Creativity with Lite-Brite

Art and Creativity with Lite-Brite

What is it about light that makes it so appealing as an element of play? One of my recent blogs focused upon glow-in-the-dark toys that use phosphors and a form of light emission known as photoluminescence to provide a familiar greenish glow. I also described chemiluminescence, a form of light emission dependent upon a chemical reaction. Glow sticks, for example, use this form of illumination. However, Lite-Brite, a toy first produced by Hasbro in 1967, applied an entirely different approach to creating a glowing effect: it used a single 25-watt light bulb.

In the book Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them, author Tim Walsh provides some insight as to how the idea for Lite-Brite came to fruition. According to Walsh, Marvin Glass, Henry Stand, and Burt Meyer from the Chicago toy design firm Marvin Glass and Associates were walking down Fifth Avenue in New York City while in town for the 1966 Toy Fair when they spotted a colorful window display that used hundreds of colorful lights. The trio was awestruck by the display, as were other passersby.

At that moment they felt inspired to create a toy that would mimic the same colorful light display concept, although they speculated that it might be difficult to create as a safe, in-home product that would be cost-effective to manufacture. Fortunately, Burt Meyer continued to brainstorm about this idea and started working on a prototype.

Lite-Brite prototype, The Strong, Rochester, New York.

Work vs. Play: When a Chore is Not a Chore

Work vs. Play: When a Chore is Not a Chore

In preparation for purchasing my daughter’s second birthday present, I polled my parent-friends to see what was the one toy their kids couldn’t live without. The answer was unanimous —a play kitchen—since it provides endless hours of play for a wide variety of age groups. In the back of my mind I thought, “I could…

No Imitation Game: The Alan Turing Edition Monopoly

No Imitation Game: The Alan Turing Edition Monopoly

The list of Academy Award nominees for 2015 included The Imitation Game, the highest-grossing independent film of the previous year. The film tells part of the life story, with plenty of artistic license, of England’s Alan Turing. Most famous for playing a key role on the top secret team that solved Nazi Germany’s Enigma code…

Star Wars and Atari: Documentation of a Classic Arcade Game

Star Wars and Atari: Documentation of a Classic Arcade Game

Earlier this year, I joined The Strong to perform a truly exciting job: process the recently acquired Atari Coin-Op Division Collection. I loved Atari as a child, so I jumped at the chance to work firsthand on its records. My first exposure to video games, like many others born in the early 1980s, came through…

What Were They Thinking? Playthings to Ponder

What Were They Thinking? Playthings to Ponder

Earlier this spring, the curators at The Strong gathered up items from the collections for a display we call “What Were They Thinking?” Although no one ever sets out to make a bad toy, the items exhibited included a number of toys, games, and dolls that make us wonder just what their designers and manufacturers…

The First Jigsaw Puzzle

The First Jigsaw Puzzle

Preparation for the new Toy Halls of Fame is in full swing at The Strong. Part of the preparation for the exhibit’s opening in September 2015 involves assessing objects to make sure that they can be safely displayed in a way that will preserve the artifacts while allowing guests to enjoy them during their visits….

Novelty Items: Amusements and More!

Novelty Items: Amusements and More!

I’m a huge fan of novelty items. Currently, my office is adorned with miniature rubber ducks, librarian action figures, small stuffed animals, and other cute-funny-quirky trinkets. These make great conversation pieces and delight others, as well as amuse me. I’ve found that “novelty” is often used as a catch-all term for miscellaneous items that don’t…

YOU and YOU ALONE: The Story of the Choose Your Own Adventure Generation

YOU and YOU ALONE: The Story of the Choose Your Own Adventure Generation

WARNING!!!! Do not read this book straight through from beginning to end! These pages contain many different adventures you can go on…. The adventures you take are a result of your choice. You are responsible because you choose! For 36 years these opening lines have beckoned booklovers and reluctant readers alike to become part of…

RPGs and D&D: Learning from the PlaGMaDA Papers

RPGs and D&D: Learning from the PlaGMaDA Papers

I am a self-professed nerd. I blame (or should I say credit?) my parents, whose family vacation plans alternated visits to educational destinations such as Colonial Williamsburg, Gettysburg, and Washington, DC (No cruises to Aruba or trips to ski resorts for us, thanks. One spring break, my dad took my two brothers and me to…

Rock On, Gary Dahl

Rock On, Gary Dahl

Staff at The Strong passed around several emails this week noting the passing of Gary Dahl, inventor of the Pet Rock, a wildly popular fad from the mid-1970s. In 1975 Dahl, a California advertising man, dreamed up the notion of a Pet Rock and shipped it to a San Francisco gift show that August. His…