How Play-Doh Went From Being a Household Cleaning Supply to a Beloved Toy

Salty, colorful compound turns 60, but stays cool


Joseph McVicker was in big trouble. Kutol Products, his Cincinnati company, manufactured a gummy, doughy product that housewives used to remove coal soot from wallpaper. But now it was 1955. Not only were vinyl wallpapers coming onto the market, but homes were switching from coal stoves to oil and natural gas that burned cleaner. Kutol was fast becoming obsolete.

Play-Doh lion crafted by Emily Shellenberger; Prop stying and lettering: Dianna McDougall; Photo: Raquel Beauchamp

That might have been the end of it for McVicker were it not for his sister-in-law Kay who happened to be a nursery school teacher.

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