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World Play-Doh Day

If you were blindfolded while someone opened a container of Play-Doh and placed it under your nose, chances are high that you'd know what was in front of you. The distinct scent of Play-Doh has been with many since childhood when they shaped the easily-moldable substance into the likeness of food, trains, houses, or whatever their heart desired. Something with a scent this recognizable is surely deserving of its own day.

Each year on this date, celebrants play with Play-Doh and make and share creations. National Play-Doh Day was first celebrated on September 16, 1980, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Play-Doh's introduction. The day was thought up by Kenner Products, which made Play-Doh at the time. They commissioned an artist to make a sculpture out of 100 pounds of Play-Doh for the day. The holiday continued to be marked in subsequent years. In 1985, on the occasion of Play-Doh's 30th anniversary, Kenner gave away the modeling compound to those celebrating and sent news releases about the day to more than 600 newspapers and radio stations. Play-Doh modeling contests were also held during this year. In 2006, Hasbro—which now made the compound—officially recognized a National Play-Doh Day on the same date. In 2015, they changed the name of the day to World Play-Doh Day. That year, they hosted a virtual Play-Doh parade.

In 1955, Kay Zufall, a nursery school teacher from New Jersey, was in search of modeling clay for her students that wasn't as messy as regular modeling clay and that was also easier for young hands to work with. She learned that wallpaper cleaner had been used for modeling projects such as making holiday decorations, and thought it might be the solution. It turned out that she had a brother-in-law, Joseph McVicker, who was head of the Cincinnati-based Kutol Products Company, which was the largest manufacturer of wallpaper cleaner. (The pliable compound that was used to wipe the soot off of wallpaper was not as needed by this time, because wallpaper didn't need to be cleaned as much, since there had been a movement away from heating homes with coal to using electricity, oil, and gas.) McVicker had children begin trying the cleaner out as a modeling compound in 1955—possibly on September 16, although the significance of the date is unknown—and it was successful.

Zufall suggested to McVicker that the name be changed to Play-Doh. McVicker, along with his uncle Noah McVicker, formed a subsidiary from Kutol to make Play-Doh and named it Rainbow Crafts Company. Kutol continued to make soaps and cleaners and is still in existence today. Play-Doh first went on sale in 1956, at Woodward & Lothrop, a department store in Washington, D.C., and soon afterward it was on the shelves at Macy's and Marshall Fields. It originally was only available in off-white and came in 1.5-pound boxes.

Red, yellow, and blue colors were made available in 1957 and were first sold in gallon cans, and then in eleven-ounce packages. The two-ounce mini cans that would become commonplace made their debut in 1960. Today there are more than 50 colors, some having names like Blue Lagoon, Rose Red, Garden Green, and Purple Paradise. Flour, water, and salt are the main ingredients in Play-Doh, but there are others, such as borax and mineral oil. There have been some minor modifications to the recipe over the years. For example, the level of salt was reduced so the product wouldn't dry out as quickly.

The McVicker's applied for a patent in 1958, and then again in 1960, but it wasn't granted until January 26, 1965. One of the early proponents of Play-Doh who helped boost its sales was Bob Keeshan, better known as Captain Kangaroo, who showcased it on his children's television program. In 1965, Rainbow Crafts was sold to General Mills. In 1971, Rainbow Crafts merged with Kenner Products, with General Mills being the parent company. Hasbro acquired Play-Doh in 1991.

The Play-Doh Fun Factory debuted in 1960 and was followed by numerous other extensions of the product. Some examples include Play-Doh Kitchen Creations, Play-Doh Touch, Play-Doh Shape & Learn, and DohVinci. There have been numerous co-branded playsets such as Star Wars, My Little Pony, and Disney's Frozen. Other compounds have also been offered under the Play-Doh name, such as Slime, Foam, Putty, Super Cloud, and Krackle. Play-Doh was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1998. By the mid-2010s, over 3 billion cans of Play-Doh had been sold, and over 100 million cans continue to be sold each year today!

How to Observe

Some ideas on how to celebrate the day include:

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