– PEOPLE WORTH REMEMBERING –
• When Marvin Glass was a kid in Chicago in the early 1900s, he paid little attention to schoolwork or his social life. He preferred crafts with paper, cardboard, scissors, and art supplies. He constructed castles and airplanes and fantasy characters. At the age of 8, he designed a toy submarine that fired wooden torpedoes. He moved into a small apartment with a friend as a roommate as a young adult.
• His friend designed window dressings for storefronts for a living, and one day came home from work with the assignment to design some sort of toy that would capture the attention of passers-by. The two put their heads together, and came up with a projector that illuminated the Sunday comics. They were paid $500 for the rights to their creation, a princely sum for the middle of the Great Depression, but the company that manufactured it ended up earning over $30,000 from their idea. This ignited a fire in Glass. From then on, he spent his life designing toys and selling the rights to companies for royalties on sales.
• Glass set up his own design factory, and his next creation was a hit. It was a Catholic Weather Chapel: when the weather was dry, a Sacred Heart popped out of the chapel; but when the weather was humid, Saint Barbara (patron saint of disasters) emerged.
• Many inventions followed. Some were hits, others misses. There was a plastic chicken that laid plastic eggs when it was pressed down. Ten million Busy Biddee Chickens sold. Next was the Yakity-Yak Talking Teeth, the wind-up chattering dentures. Then there was the Merry-Go-Sips, the drinking cup containing a carousel of plastic cartoon animals that spun around when toddlers sucked their milk through the straw. The fake barf made from latex and bits of foam rubber. The doll that cried when its pacifier was removed.
• Now Glass was rolling. He was a charmer and a tyrant; a chain-smoking workaholic who demanded the same from others. When his marriage ended, it inspired Mr. Machine, a wind-up robot with a transparent plastic body that showed the inner workings of its gears as it marched forward, squawking. It could be disassembled and reassembled. It was a hit.
• Then there was the Haunted House game, which unfolded into a 3D Addams Family style mansion that stood upright. Each room had round holes for the player’s pegs. The owl spinner hooted every time it was spun, telling players how far they could advance their pegs as they progressed through rooms full of secret mechanical pop-up surprises such as vampires, skeletons, and ghosts, as they searched for the hidden treasure.
• The success of the Haunted House led to his biggest hit yet. He was inspired by a cartoon drawn by Rube Goldberg, which showed how to remove the cotton from a bottle of aspirin using a ridiculously convoluted contraption. Glass designed his own Rube Goldberg contraption using plastic parts set up on a game board: a crank rotated gears that caused a lever to move a stop sign so it hit a shoe on which kicked a bucket causing a marble to roll down a staircase, enter a drainpipe, then nudge a rod with a hand that pushed a bowling ball off a ledge and into a bathtub then dropped through a hole, landing on a seesaw that launched a man backwards into a washtub that unbalanced a cage perched on top of a post, so it dropped down and captured the mouse below. It was called Mouse Trap.
• Milton Bradley turned it down. Parker Brothers turned it down. Ideal Toy took it up. They couldn’t make it fast enough. Glass followed that with another hit: “Operation.”
• Marvin Glass died age 59 in 1974, having transformed the world of toys.