George Lerner (1922-1995) was the inventor of the American toy, Mr. Potato Head. His original idea was to create plastic facial features that could be applied to a piece of fruit or a vegetable, thus turning an inanimate piece of food into an anthropomorphic toy. During World War II, Lerner found success as a well known inventor and designer. During the 1940s he sold the idea of a toy whose body parts would stick onto a potato to a cereal company. Lerner was born in Brooklyn, NY to Jewish parents of Romanian descent.
Just before 1950, he designed and produced a first generation set of plastic face pieces. The push pin shaped noses, ears, eyes, and mouth parts could be pushed into fruits or vegetables to transform the food into playmates. Lerner finally sold the toy for $5000, to a cereal company. The toys were planned to be a premium giveaway in cereal boxes. But when Lerner found a better deal offered by toy manufacturer Hassenfeld Brothers (now Hasbro), Lerner and the manufacturer bought the rights back for $7000.
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