The Bizarre Christmas Marketing Stunt That Made Tinker Toys A Hit


Like Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys were popular because they allowed kids to express their limitless creativity, but unlike those cabin beams, they weren't an immediate success. In fact, the toy's makers could barely afford them. Fearless, they came up with a clever marketing stunt before Christmas 1915, which today would have raised a few eyebrows but resulted in sales of millions.

Be Tinker Toys

In the early 1900s, Charles Pajeau, a mason by trade living in Evanston, Illinois, observed a group of children playing with thrown spools of thread on a morning walk to work, building tall towers. To put a pencil in the hole of the spool. , He was amazed at their ingenuity, but he could see that they were frustrated by the limitations of the spool. Drawing on his background as a stonemason, Pajeau added more holes around the perimeter of his wooden spools so that the sticks could form 45- and 90-degree angles.

He had his idea but it got nowhere until he sat next to Robert Petit, a businessman with the Chicago Board of Trade, on a commuter train in 1913. Pajeau mentioned his idea to Petit, and soon, the two men formed the Tinker Toy Company in Pajeau's garage. Pajeau replaced the pencil with wooden dowels or rods of varying length, making the spool flatter and larger, and kept the center hole but also added eight holes around the sides of the spool.

A Marshal Field Day

Surely they had a new hit toy on their hands, the two men packed several tinker toy sets and traveled to New York City to attend the 1914 American Toy Fair, where toy makers showed off their inventions to manufacturers and department stores. Alas, no one is interested in Tinker Toys. Frustrated, the two men dropped off some sets at random stores on their way back to their hotels, because they no longer wanted to drive around unwanted toys.

But Pajeau and Petit were not ready to give up. Convinced that kids would love Tinker Toys if they were only given a chance to see them in action, they set up a meeting with the store managers of Chicago's largest department store, Marshall Field, in their iconic store window. asked for one. Display your toys as well as shelf space inside the store. He offered the elves actors to dress as Santa's elves and play with toys, which struck a deal for Marshall Fields, who believed that the presence of the living elves in his shop window would drive traffic to his store.

The idea worked for everyone. Youngsters and their parents crowded around the sidewalk outside Marshall Field's Tinker Toys display window to see what the elves were making and then into the fourth-floor toy department to pick up their own sets. Arrive. By Christmas 1915, Marshall Fields had sold over one million tinker toy sets.

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