The original Playskool Institute was founded in 1928 by a former Milwaukee, Wisconsin, school teacher named Lucille King. While working at the John Schroeder Lumber Company, King created various wooden prototypes for educational toys aimed at pre-school and kindergarten-age children. Within two years, the company’s Playskool division had a line of some 40 wooden toys, from an elevated sandbox to a pounding shoemaker’s bench.
Educational experts soon endorsed Playskool’s toys, and the company adopted the slogans “Learning While Playing” and “Playthings with a Purpose.” Early marketing for its variety of pull toys and activity sets emphasized improved hand-eye coordination and muscular control for children. Playskool also designed many role-play kits with small wood or fabric parts, like a Sewing Box and Postal Station.
In 1935, the Playskool Institute was relocated to Chicago, Illinois, as a division of toy manufacturer Thorncraft, Inc. Finally, in 1938, the Joseph Lumber Company purchased Playskool and soon renamed its entire business as the Playskool Manufacturing Company. Under the direction of Robert Meythaler and Manuel Fink, the company grew into a nationally-recognized brand, advertising in major magazines like “Psychology Today” and more than doubling its production facilities.
As the business expanded, Playskool acquired other educational toy makers like Holgate Toys and the John Lloyd Wright Company, which made Lincoln Logs. Toymaker Jerry Rockwell, who worked with Holgate before it was purchased by Playskool, joined the company’s ranks and designed the popular Tyke Bike, a sturdy four-wheeled seated scooter.
In the late 1960s, Playskool was sold to Milton Bradley, which was acquired by Hasbro in 1984. Some of Playskool’s most popular toy lines today include Mr. Potato Head, Play-Doh, Tonka, and Tinker Toys.