Toys and American Culture
An Encyclopedia
by Sharon M. Scott
December 2009, 418pp, 7x10
1 volume, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-0-313-34798-6
$103, £80, 90€, A142
eBook Available: 978-0-313-34799-3
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

John Lloyd Wright invented Lincoln Logs in 1916 while assisting his architect father, Frank Lloyd Wright, on the construction of the Imperial Hotel in Japan. Barbie is based on a German doll named Bild Lilli marketed to bachelors in German cigar stores and sex shops. She has been the best selling American doll since her introduction in 1959. What does the background of these toys mean? How does it relate to their significance in popular culture?

Tracing developments in toy making and marketing across the evolving landscape of the 20th century, this encyclopedia is a comprehensive reference guide to America’s most popular playthings and the culture to which they belong.

From the origins of favorite playthings to their associations with events and activities, the study of a nation’s toys reveals the hopes, goals, values, and priorities of its people. Toys have influenced the science, art, and religion of the United States, and have contributed to the development of business, politics, and medicine. Toys and American Culture: An Encyclopedia documents America’s shifting cultural values as they are embedded within and transmitted by the nation’s favorite playthings.

Alphabetically arranged entries trace developments in toy making and toy marketing across the evolving landscape of 20th-century America. In addition to discussing the history of America’s most influential toys, the book contains specific entries on the individuals, organizations, companies, and publications that gave shape to America’s culture of play from 1900 to 2000. Toys from the two decades that frame the 20th century are also included, as bridges to the fascinating past—and the inspiring future—of American toys.


  • Nearly 200 alphabetically arranged entries document the historical and cultural significance of toys
  • Cross-references and a listing of additional resources accompany each entry and encourage further investigation
  • Photographs and illustrations gathered from public and private collections across the country depict the entire century of America at play
  • A guide to related topics identifies the entries according to broader categories such as toys, designers, companies, museums, events, and organizations
  • A resource guide provides information for contacting American toy companies, accessing national toy museums, and attending annual toy festivals, and offers many avenues for pursuing further information about toys and American culture including books, scholarly journals, audio recordings, films, and websites
Sharon Scott is an author and toy enthusiast whose work on American popular culture has been published by Greenwood Press, Golson Media, and ABC/Discovery News. She has lectured at the University of Carthage, Tunisia, and the branch campus of Monash University in Italy.


"Toys and American Culture is an ambitious reference book that breaks new ground in taking the entire field of American toys as its purview. ... a useful addition to the expanding toy reference bookshelf, reflecting the growing significance of toys, play, and children as topics worthy of attention within a broader historical and cultural context."—American Journal of Play, December 10, 2010

"...this insightful book is a must for anyone involved in the care and well being of a new baby." —, March 31, 2011

"An excellent purchase for most public libraries and academic libraries with an emphasis on contemporary culture."—Booklist, May 1, 2010

"Toys and American Culture is a valuable source of information on an important aspect of American popular culture and would therefore be a worthy addition to both public and academic library collections."—Reference & User Services Quarterly, September 1, 2010

"A must-have volume for toy collectors, writers, and researchers, and an outstanding resource for anyone who ever played with toys..."—Midwest Book Review, June 17, 2010

"...this entertaining guide to American culture will find an interested audience in school, public and academic libraries."—Lawrence Looks at Books, January 1, 2010

"Scott, an author and journalist specializing in American popular culture, offers an encyclopedia of toys in American culture that addresses the relationship between the two and the invention and development of toys in terms of historical events, social movements, and international progress. Entries trace developments in toy making and marketing in the twentieth century, the history of influential toys, and important trends, individuals, designers, museums, events, organizations, companies, and publications, with discussion of the cultural, social, and historical significance of each toy. A sampling of entries: Barbie, action figures, Bratz, Cabbage Patch Kids, Chatty Cathy, Disney Company, Elmo, FAO Schwarz, Fisher-Price, gender stereotyping, guns, Lincoln Logs, PEZ, safety, Star Wars toys, Toy Industry Association, and Walmart. B&w photos and illustrations are included. Games are omitted. The bibliography incorporates events, organizations, and collections." —Reference & Research Book News, May 1, 2010
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