Top 9 toys in Cincy Library's Kenner exhibit

Posted at 3:43 PM, Dec 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-06 15:43:57-05

CINCINNATI -- The downtown branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County will host a day-long symposium on Kenner Toys on Dec. 12, but its extensive exhibit will remain up through Jan. 16. Dan Flarida and Josh Blake of curated the exhibit's contents.

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The Cincinnati-based toy company, founded in 1947, made some of the nation’s most popular toys until it was sold to Hasbro in 1991. We scanned the various displays, which debuted Nov. 20 at the library, and selected nine must-see toys that span Kenner’s 44 years.

All photos by Brent Coleman.

Bubbl-Matic (1947) — Grandpa Soap Co. founders Phil Albert and Joseph Steiner created the Bubbl-Matic squirt gun out of their Kenner Street office. Their first toy was so popular, they quit the soap business and formed Kenner Products.


Girder and Panel (1957) — A new office building in Cincinnati was the model for Kenner’s mid-century building set that inspired many a budding architect for more than a decade. The snap-together toy eventually included battery-operated elevators.


Daddy Saddle (1965) — Buckaroos around the country were overjoyed to strap this saddle on their father’s back for a ride around the house or yard. Kenner’s vinyl-coated saddle fit just as well on teeter-totters and hobby horses. It fit dads of all sizes.


Baby Alive (1973) — Library staff member Longhay Thomas tells the story behind her Baby Alive doll. The doll could be fed with a bottle or spoon. It could chew, poo and throw up, but it could not speak. Needless to say, her diapers needed regular cleaning.


“Star Wars” action figures (1978) — This was Kenner’s first boxed set of “Star Wars” characters. Pictured, from left, are a jawa, a stormtrooper, a death squad commander, C-3PO, Ben Kenobi, Darth Vader, a sand person, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Princess Leia and R2-D2.


Strawberry Shortcake Berry Bake Shoppe (1980) — This is Kenner’s foray into the popular world of Strawberry Shortcake. Open the strawberry lid and it reveals a garden, a baker and a sales counter. Iconix Brand Group bought the line for $105 million in March; the play set lives on today.



The Ghostbusters (1987) – This is the first set in Kenner's Real Ghostbusters line of toys that came out after the 1984 movie to feature just its human stars. Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd. The Ghosbuster line was continued after Hasbro purchased Kenner in 1991.


The Starting Lineup (1988) – Kenner’s  line of lifelike American professional sports figures included Pete Rose and Larry Bird. Harvard graduate and retired Cincinnati Bengals punter Pat McInally is credited with selling his idea to Kenner, which resulted in 137 NFL players, 124 MLB players and 85 NBA players that first year. The line lasted until 1991.


Ultimate Terminator (1991) — This 12-inch-tall doll talks (“Hasta la vista, baby” and “I’ll be back”), has red eyes that light up and makes automatic gunfire noises. The Arnold Schwarzenegger character carries an “awesome hand blaster,” and his arms rotate 360 degrees.


What: Kenner Toy exhibit and symposium.

Where: Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County main branch, 800 Vine St., downtown.

When: Symposium Dec. 12; exhibit daily through Jan. 16.

Information: 513-369-6900;