Muppets Ernie and Bert would both be proud. The results are in for the 2013 class of the National Toy Hall of Fame – Chess and the Rubber Duck are the ones.
Those two were added to The Strong, the museum in Rochester. One toy stretches our gray matter, the other expands our sense of childhood wonder and fond memories of splashy toddler bath time.
The honorees were selected from a field of 12 finalists that included: bubbles, the board game “Clue,” Fisher-Price Little People, little green army men, Magic 8 Ball, My Little Pony, Nerf toys, Pac-Man, scooter and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
At The Strong in Rochester, New York on Thursday, Nov. 7, nationally syndicated cartoonist Leigh Rubin (Rubes®) presented two original commemorative cartoons, which he created in honor of the newest toy hall honorees.
About chess: One of the world’s oldest games, chess springs from an ancient Indian war game called chaturanga, in which pawns represented different types of fighting men. The game caught on in Asia and finally in Europe, where it was called “the royal game” or “the king’s game” because, during medieval times, the leisured nobility enjoyed playing it. By 1475, in England, chess evolved into the game we recognize today, with similar pieces and moves.
The oldest-known set of chess playing pieces, called the Lewis Chessmen, was found on the Isle of Lewis near Scotland. Dating from the 12th century, the pieces were carved from walrus ivory, probably in Norway. (A reproduction of that set is currently on view at the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester.) On a more contemporary note, a game of wizard’s chess, with larger-than-life animated pieces, has Harry, Ron, and Hermione scrambling across a chess board in a climactic scene in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Today, players of all ages around the world compete in informal games and official chess tournaments.
The World Chess Federation (FIDE), founded in Paris in 1924, presides over the prestigious world champion awards that generate global media attention. But human players need to watch their moves, because the latest computers offer serious competition; and online chess games—from very easy to exceptionally difficult—can challenge any player.
About rubber duck: There’s no evidence of exactly who hatched the idea of the rubber duck. Rubber toys first appeared in the late 1800s, when manufacturers made use of Charles Goodyear’s process for rendering rubber into malleable material. The first rubber ducks didn’t even float: they were cast solid and intended as chew toys. By the 1940s, the yellow figure evolved into the iconic floating companion we recognize today, saturating children’s daily bath time rituals with splashing good fun. Brightly colored, smoothly textured, and sometimes squeaky, the toddler’s popular bath time friend sharpens senses, builds hand muscles and hand-eye coordination, and soothes youngsters’ fears of water.
In 1970, Sesame Street’s Ernie fixed the rubber duck’s image as the quintessential tub toy when he sang “Rubber Duckie,” a delightful ditty that actually rose to number16 on the Billboard chart of hit tunes. Since 2007, a gigantic rubber duck by Dutch artist Florentjin Hofman, about the size of a six-story building, made a big splash around the world as it floated in the harbor of 14 cities, in a tour he named “Spreading Joy Around the World.” Today, rubber ducks aren’t even rubber—they’re mostly made of vinyl—but the cheerful yellow quackers have become iconic items in pop culture worldwide.
To date, the following 53 toys have made it into the National Toy Hall of Fame: alphabet blocks, Atari 2600 Game System, baby doll, ball, Barbie, bicycle, Big Wheel, blanket, Candy Land, cardboard box, checkers, chess, Crayola Crayons, dollhouse, dominoes, Duncan Yo-Yo, Easy-Bake Oven, Erector Set, Etch A Sketch, Frisbee, The Game of Life, G. I. Joe, Hot Wheels, hula hoop, jack-in-the-box, jacks, jigsaw puzzle, jump rope, kite, LEGO, Lincoln Logs, Lionel Trains, marbles, Monopoly, Mr. Potato Head, Nintendo Game Boy, Play-Doh, playing cards, Radio Flyer Wagon, Raggedy Ann and Andy, rocking horse, roller skates, rubber duck, Scrabble, Silly Putty, skateboard, Slinky, Star Wars action figures, stick, teddy bear, Tinkertoy, Tonka Trucks, and View-Master.
Anyone can nominate a toy for annual induction into the National Toy Hall of Fame. An internal museum advisory committee comprised of curators, educators, and historians reviews the submitted nominations and determines which toys meet the criteria for selection. A national selection committee then reviews the list of toy finalists. Each national selection committee member votes for his or her top toy picks for induction. The votes are then tallied, with the toys receiving the most votes making the cut for induction into the National Toy Hall of Fame. For more information about the hall, visit toyhalloffame.org.