Kenner History

SPECIAL FEATURE:  Kenner Tour of Cincinnati

1947 Kenner Products is formed in Cincinnati, Ohio, by the Steiner brothers, Albert, Philip and Joseph.  The company is named after its original office location on Kenner Street.

Kenner Products introduces the Bubbl-Matic Gun.

1949 Kenner Products’ Bub-L-Rocket sells over one million units.

1956 Joseph McVicker, of the Rainbow Crafts Company, introduces Play-Doh, offered in a single color, white.

1957 Three additional colors of Play-Doh are added.

1958 Kenner Products becomes one of the first toy companies to use nationwide television advertising.  The company was also one of the first sponsors of the Captain Kangaroo Show.

1959 Kenner Products introduces the Give-A-Show projector, a product that was to be a success for over twenty years.

1963 Kenner Products sets up a year-round New York showroom.

Kenner Products introduces Easy-Bake Oven.

1964 Kenner’s “Gun that Shoots Around the Corner” entertains kids across the country.

1965 General Mills purchases Cincinnati-based Rainbow Crafts, the Play-Doh manufacturer.

1966 Kenner Products introduces Spirograph design toys.

1967 General Mills purchases Kenner Products.

Kenner’s Close’n Play phonograph makes it safe for younger children to play records.

1968 General Mills purchases Parker Brothers.

1970 Rainbow Crafts is merged into Kenner Products and Play-Doh becomes part of the Kenner line.

1971 Kenner Products introduces Jukebox, a toy that played songs recorded by Kenner employees including “Spoonful of Sugar” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”.

1973 Kenner Products introduces Baby Alive, which becomes the number one baby doll of the year.

1975 Kenner Products breaks the $100 million sales mark.

Kenner Products’ Six Million Dollar Man action figures lead the industry and also become the industry’s first successful television license.

1976 Kenner Products moves to 1014 Vine Street, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Kenner introduces Stretch Armstrong, a 13” high figure that could be stretched up to four feet!

1977 Kenner Products negotiates license for Star Wars property, which goes on to become the company’s most powerful toy success.

Albert Steiner, one of Kenner’s founders, passed away in December at the age of 82.

1978 Kenner Products breaks the $200 million sales mark, doubling its sales in just three years, due in large part to the enormous success of Star Wars.

1980 Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back toys are introduced and are a huge success.

Kenner Products introduces Strawberry Shortcake mini-dolls.

1983 Four additional colors of Play-Doh are added, expanding the line to the “Basic 8” Rainbow Pack colors.

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi toys introduced, more than 300 million Star Wars related toys sold since 1977.

Kenner Products introduces Care Bears plush toys, helping to start a new “Care Bears Generation”.

Kenner establishes manufacturing operations in Tijuana, Mexico.

1984 Kenner introduces a collection of Super Powers action figures, each with their own miniature DC comic book.

1985 Kenner introduces M.A.S.K. action figures.

Kenner Parker Toys Inc., the country’s fourth largest toy company, is spun off from General Mills.

Kenner Products does its first out-licensing with the M.A.S.K. property for a wide range of consumer goods.

1986 Kenner Products introduces Real Ghostbusters action figures late in the year.

1987 Tonka Corporation acquires Kenner Parker Toys Inc. on October 16.

Tonka Corporation sales exceed $300 million.

1988 Tonka Corporation establishes four operating divisions:  Kenner Products, Parker Brothers and Tonka Products serving the U.S. and Tonka International.

Kenner Products introduces Starting Lineup action figures which soon becomes one of the hottest collectibles.

1989 Sales of Real Ghostbusters toys continue to soar with the release of the second movie.

1990 Kenner’s productive ties to the entertainment industry pay off again with the successful introduction of the Batman line of toys.

Kenner’s Baby Alive returns to toy shelves with a new generation of young girls eager to embrace her.  Over 9 million Baby Alive dolls have sold since the doll’s original introduction in 1973.

1991 Play-Doh celebrates its 35th birthday.

When Tonka Corporation (including Kenner Products and Parker Brothers) is purchased by Hasbro, Inc., Kenner becomes a division of the largest toy company in the world.  Other divisions at Hasbro, Inc. include Milton Bradley, Playskool, and the Hasbro toy division.

With the Hasbro purchase and resulting restructuring, Play-Doh is shifted to the Playskool Division of the company; Parker Brothers’ Nerf and Tonka’s Cupcake doll lines move to Kenner Products.

1992 Kenner revitalizes their Batman business with a line of toys coinciding with the summer movie release of “Batman Returns”.

Kenner moves its headquarters to 615 Elsinore Place, Cincinnati, OH.

1993 DINOMANIA…As Spielberg’s Jurassic Park became the highest grossing movie of all time, Kenner’s Jurassic Park line became the talk of the toy industry.

Little girls across the country fall in love with the Littlest Pet Shop, Kenner’s new line of miniature pets with magical actions.

Easy-Bake Oven celebrates its 30th birthday with a publicity gala in conjunction with a food and lifestyle conference at Cincinnati’s Westin Hotel.

Kenner’s very successful Batman line expands with the introduction of toys tied to Fox TV’s “Batman, The Animated Series”.

The Nerf line explodes with the introduction of a number of new toys including Nerf Arrowstorm, Sharpshooter and the NB-1.

Philip Steiner, one of Kenner’s founders, passed away in November at the age of 82.

1994 Hasbro restructures the corporation into two groups – the Hasbro Toy Group (Kenner, Tonka and Playskool) and the Hasbro Games Group (Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley), positioning the corporation to enhance responsiveness to consumer demand.

Starting Lineup conventions draw crowds from across the country.  Starting lineup prototypes were auctioned for charity with the highest bid at $5,000 for a 1989 Nolan Ryan.

Kenner stuns radio-controlled vehicle category with the introduction of Ricochet…one of the hottest selling R/C vehicles of the year.

1995 As Nerf celebrates its 25th birthday, the line’s popularity with consumers of all ages continues to soar – even the United States Congress was caught playing with Nerf Ballzookas in a brainstorming session addressing the national deficit.

Batman Forever…with the release of the third Batman movie, Kenner steps up to “Bat” with the introduction of yet another very successful line of Kenner toys.

Star Wars action figures, vehicles and accessories are reintroduced with the same excitement as the first introduction in the 70’s.

1996 The Star Wars line of toys continues to grow with the introduction of products tied to the novel Shadows of the Empire.  Kenner branded Star Wars toys remain the number one selling toy for almost 12 months straight, second only to Kenner’s Batman action figures and accessories.

The Batman brand released its 100th Edition Batman figure celebrating the 100 different versions of Batman created by Kenner’s designers.  The first Batman figure was created in 1984 with the Super Powers collection.

G.I. Joe, the all-American hero, came back in his original 12” form (the original 1963 body with 32 points of articulation was used).  Collectors of all ages were thrilled to see the Classic Collection of authentically detailed, military personnel from around the world.  Included was the U.S. Airborne Ranger Parachutist, French Foreign legion, U.S. Army Infantry, British SAS, and the Australian O.D.F.

Baby Go Bye Bye, with five ways to play, is the #1 selling large doll.

Kenner branded collectible toys launch the company’s first website at

1997 Star Wars toys celebrate 20 years with the re-release of the Special Edition trilogy at movie theatres and on video.  More than 60 new Star Wars figures and vehicles came to the market.  In October it is announced that Hasbro has earned expanded rights from Lucasfilm to produce a wide-range of toy and game products for the next three Star Wars movies (the prequels).  The first prequel debuted May 1999.

The first G.I. Joe female figure is released since the G.I. Nurse in 1967 – a U.S. Army Helicopter Pilot.  Product packages contain the label “G.I. Jane.”

XRC Crashback, a radio-controlled vehicle that smashes up and “unsmashes” at the touch of a button is very popular.

Other entertainment based lines include the fourth Batman movie – “Batman and Robin”, the second installment of Jurassic Park called “Jurassic park – The Lost World”; Warner Brothers “Steel” and Viacom Productions’ “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,” which was the #1 television show among girls and teens.

Winner’s Circle, a diecast line featuring NASCAR’s top cars and drivers, is successfully launched.  Hasbro even sponsors Kenny Irwin’s #27 NASCAR car with special Nerf, Tonka and G.I Joe paint schemes.

2000 Hasbro announces it will shut its Cincinnati operations, ending 53 years of Kenner history

2002 Joseph Steiner, one of Kenner’s founders, passed away in May at the age of 95.

55 Responses to Kenner History

  1. Marisa L. Davis says:

    Does anyone know how to get pens that work with “Spirographs” please email me, thanks

  2. June Mohn says:

    I have a Kenner’s No. 401 Spirograph and would like to buy colored pens to use with it. Can you help me? My children played with this and now it is my grandchildren’s turn.

  3. Shari M. says:

    Does anyone have information on the Banjo Matic toy banjo? When it was made? What kind of string it uses?

  4. Sarah says:

    It was made in the early 1960’s, I can find copyright information dated for September 1962 but nothing more.

  5. Anthony E. Festa says:

    In your history of Kenner Toys, you make no mention of theIr “Girder and Panel” line of toys. These products were manufactured fom the late 1950s, through to 1967, or 1968. The sts were very popular, and are still quite hevealy traded on auction sites today. The “Girder and Panel” line Is a very important piece of the Kenner story.

  6. Becca says:

    No mention of the now famous Blythe doll that was released and sold for only a year in 1972? What a shame!

  7. robert makepeace says:

    I have the 1980 electronic game called redline drag face game that came out around late 1979 its in mint condition and every button and every light still works

  8. Jay says:

    I have a miniature figure that is about two inches tall and purple with half a skull face and half regular face. He has a green mechanical chest piece and he looks like he changes colors with heat. on the back it has 90 and kenner on it. i feel he went to a bigger playset or vehicle. please help if you can identify the toy line. thanks!!

  9. mel says:

    Interesting stuff that reminded me of toys I had in my youth…. Kenner Playdoh (who did not have that?); Kenner Give a Show Projector; Kenner Doozies and my sister had a Kenner Easy Bake oven…. that I remember because she forced me to eat the little cake that was cooked with a light bulb.

  10. Julie Banta says:

    I have a “The Doodler” toy with packaging that was manufactured by the Kenner Products Company. I am curious as to why there is no mention of it anywhere online and if that would mean that is it so rare as to not even have a mention. It clearly says “Kenner Products Company, Cincinnati 2, Ohio” on the packaging. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

  11. gene sinner says:

    i have a 1972 kenner juke box,that does not work,where could i get a replacement or parts foe it.,do you know of any website i could go to, it is connected with general mills also,gene sinner 1000 3rd street,baraboo,wi 53913-2370,thank you

  12. Don Infusino says:

    Why don’t they remake the girder and panel set toys sets.? These toys were a hugh success in the 60’s. These types of toys is what gave a lot children great immagination and thinking skills. I know because I had these toys.

  13. Carolyn says:

    I would like to buy a toy called Gobbles the Garbage Eating Goat if anyone can find it. It was always a favorite. Thanks.

  14. Cesar Rolon Jr says:

    I would love to find a Close N Play if anyone know of one, please let me know –

  15. lane says:

    How does one even write an article on “Kenner History” without including Blythe?

  16. Please help. We have a white plastic horse with yarn hair and a cowboy hat. The rider is egg shaped with hat also. Number under horse says Catalogue number 9740. From 1975

  17. Thomas says:

    I love Kenner toys! It’s too bad they no longer exist. I’m always on the lookout for new toys to add to my collection. Anyone looking to sell theirs??

  18. Pamala says:

    I wish they still made the Knit-O-Matic! I hear people in Michael’s asking about it all the time. Too bad. There’s still a market for it.

  19. Are they still making the funny bad Kenner Shreeky toy with the care bears as well now, I heard about in 2013 last year and was just wondering if I could order it with a money order as payment too.

  20. Nancy Van Note says:

    Re: Strawberry Shortcake Dolls
    Can you tell me when the first doll was made? Is there somewhere I can go to to see the different dolls made for this line?

  21. Anne says:

    Looking for a working Gobbles the Goat. I have one, that my boys use to play with when visiting Grandma. When grandma passed away I found it tucked away and brought it home, unfortunately the belt has broken and it won’t eat the food. My 2 yr old granddaughter has fallen in love with it, and I only wish I could get it to work. Looking for a replacement or ideas on how to fix.

  22. Tina Vain says:

    Have a Gobbles the Garbabge eating goat. make offer. no box but works good.

  23. David Uhlfelder says:

    Have you heard of a line of kenner toys from 1996 called the crystal’s Palace collection?

  24. smb fan says:

    How can I find ”warped speeders gang” of savage mondo blitzers?

  25. Paul Middelhoff says:

    I worked in Kenner’s shipping office in the late 60’s before I joined the Air Force. We were located in a decrepit old building on Kenner Street right next to the Union Terminal train station in Cincinnati. The biggest sellers at the time were the Spirograph and the Easy Bake Oven. They were always on back order. Mostly we shipped directly to department stores and small toy stores. Those were the days before large distribution centers came into existence. It was a very friendly place to work. The Steiners owned the company at that point, and they would come around regularly, and always ask how things could be improved.

    • William Boehme says:

      I worked in the Norwood factory in the late 70’s. I was a line stocker so I got to see many different parts of the factory. One of the most interesting jobs I had. I was always fascinated by the whole assembly process. The factory itself was like a huge city, all the buildings connected to each other. Star Wars action figures were a big item at the time as was Stretch Armstrong…little tiny balloon looking thing that went into a BIG machine and came out as Stretch…fascinating stuff.

      • sav mon blit Greece says:

        do you have savage mondo blitzers? I am looking for warped speeders 12 figoures…Or anyone close to you might know something!

      • Leslie says:

        Do you remember giving schools tours? I was there in 1979 with my Kindergarten class. We were given toys at the end of the tour. The girls were given Sea Wee dolls and the boys were given Star Wars toys.

  26. mike says:

    Was curious as to the role of toy demonstrators, particular to the 50’s and 60’s. I will presume that many coincided with various major department stores through the toy companies. A beloved aunt was one and worked in conjunction with Famous Barr/Kenner in of St Louis. Most every female cousin of mine got an Easy Bake Oven at Christmas. The Give-a-Show projectors were another popular item. I remember spending hours converting her living room floor into an entire metropolis. Kenner building sets. Girder and Panel, Bridge and Turnpike and those Sub Division ensembles were all this 8yr old developer needed to pass the hours. It was like a politician in charge of zoning–I had it all. From a bit of research I have learned that Kenner was the first to actively pursue the medium of TV exposure aimed at the kids. Coupled with their toy demonstrators the formula was set. All of this pre-empting the big screen acropolis that began with Star Wars and the endless array of super heroes that have since followed. Most of which, lifted from the pages of 60 year old comic books. Such are the attributes of this millennium, not to mention the bombardment and influence of screens- no matter the size. Yet their was a time when texture, smell and hands on coronation depicted playtime esthetics, rather than point n click. And those toy demonstrators were very much a part of the sell. Any information as to a direction in researching Kenner demonstrators would be appreciated.

  27. Renee says:

    I am looking for the spoon for the 1990 vintage baby alive doll it is blue in colour I have searched high and low and can not find one just wondering if you knew where I could track one down 🙂

  28. Bo Hadden says:

    Comment: Please help if you can.I have been looking ,referencing,researching everything and everywhere I can,but I absolutely cannot find any information at all on the following item.What I have is the Kenner Alien Giant Blaster Target set dated 1979.What makes this particular set different from the others I`ve seen is that this set employs a dart pistol (no,this is not the Chase Target Set) instead of the ‘ping pong” type balls I`ve seen in all the other ones.The box art is exactly the same with the only difference being the blaster itself,the text here states” three safety darts instead of three safety balls” and the little boy on the front is a different child than on the other one.The girl and boy are positioned slightly different on this one.I think the little girl is the same one on both boxes.Another interesting feature of the blaster is that it has a cap firing mechanism on the top where you can load a roll of caps.You can plainly see this on the front of the box.However,nowhere on the box or on the instruction sheet does it make any mention of the cap mechanism.This is not a custom job,foreign issue or homemade item.It difinitely came from the Kenner factory.In the 15 years I have owned it,I have not seen another one.Not one.Not even a mention of one.Was this a proto-type? I can send pics to anyone who wants them. Please,anybody out there with any information at all,please,by all means contact me via email or my home phone number which is 704-445-0389.Ask for Bo.Thanks. Email me at:

  29. Bo Hadden says:

    In reference to my comment above about the Giant Alien Blaster Set,does anyone know how I can contact anyone who worked in the toy and development department at Kenner in 1979?

  30. Bo Hadden says:

    Again in reference to my two comments above about the Giant Alien Blaster Set, it was put out by H G toys and not Kenner. Had Kenner on my mind and wasn`t paying attention.

  31. Katie H says:

    Does anybody have any information on Kenner’s Baby Buddies dolls? I’ve spent my whole life collecting them and would love to hear from the people who helped develop them.

  32. Lee Donahue says:

    Hello I am trying to get ahold of someone at Kenner Toys company , I found a original care bear with the Rainbow that was Sewn on upside down and I am wondering if that is a rare find ?

  33. Susan Sharpe says:

    Does anyone know where I can find the glamour gals cruise ship?

  34. Bill deimling says:

    For Bo Hadden: I worked for Kenner from July 1969 until January 1974. The boss of the prototype shop was jack holland in 1979. After left tohere I did work for them. Jack had a business called clown alley. I don’t know where he is now. Two other fellows who might be able to help are Homer Gemmer of northern Kentucky or Bob Raines of Augusta Kentucky. They both ran the proto development shop back then.

  35. matt says:

    I’m looking for a still in the box 1973 smash-up derby set the one with the truck and a Volkswagen.

  36. Aaden car says:

    Superb !! great job

  37. sav mon blit Greece says:

    still looking for savage mondo blitzers ”warped speeders” 12 figures! Ready to pay! 🙂

  38. Jay Arsenault says:

    Looking for NASCAR Winner’s Circle Championship Legacy Darrell Waltrip 1981 Cup Winner and Rusty Wallace 1989 Cup Winner figures. If anyone knows where I can get them (along with photos of their actual existence) that would be helpful. If they do exist, I would have the whole set, along with the other figures in the line from 1997-2000!

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