LJN Toys Catalog, 1987

Toy guns have existed in the United States for nearly 150 years, becoming a niche market in the ’30s and ’40s following the popularity of Hollywood gangster pictures and The Lone Ranger serial. After the U.S. entered World War II, the market became an industry, and sophisticated new designs proliferated until the late 1960’s…

The Abominable Snowman Debuts at Disneyland, 1978

Walt Disney got the idea for the Matterhorn Bobsleds attraction while on location in the Alps during the filming of Third Man on the Mountain (1959). He bought a postcard featuring the Matterhorn, one of the three highest north faces of the alps, and wrote a one line message to Disneyland engineer and art director Vic Greene: “Vic, build this! Walt.”

Revell ‘Space Age’ Model Kits, 1957 – 1959

Southern California-based Revell started as a plastics company in 1941, established by Lewis Glaser only weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor. After a series of British-made “Highway Pioneer” replicas (including the Ford Model T) sold well in 1950, Glaser decided to try his hand at plastic model kits—soon-to-be competitor Monogram had been doing the same since 1945—and Revell’s first mold was 1953’s USS Missouri, the battleship on which the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed…

‘Mysterious Monuments’ on the Moon, 1966

The first spacecraft to land on the Moon and transmit photographs back to Earth was Russia’s Luna 9, launched on January 31, 1966. It landed in the Ocean of Storms on February 3, and sent the first of nine images of the Moon’s surface seven hours later. One of these photos, according to an Argosy article by Ivan T. Sanderson from 1970, showed what appeared to be “two straight lines of equidistant stones that look like the markers along an airport runway…”

Major Matt Mason: Mattel’s Man in Space, 1966 – 1970

The Matt Mason line was developed by Mattel to compete against Hasbro’s G.I. Joe, which debuted in 1964 along with the the descriptor “action figure”—the social reality of the day dictated that boys would not and should not play with “dolls.” While the “Joes” were 12″ tall, Matt Mason and his “space buddies” were reduced to 6″, a brilliant decision by Mattel…

Continental Airlines Commercial, Circa 1976

Prior to the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, the fares, routes, schedules, and establishment of commercial airliners were controlled by the federal Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB). While regulation meant smaller profits for the airliners, it also meant guaranteed profits: the result amounted to a monopoly that was “too big to fail.” The supposed “golden age” of air travel, as depicted in the commercial above, was actually the result of so many half-empty planes in the sky…

The Transformers (Generation One), 1984 – 1990

Christmas, 1984. It was a hell of a time to be a kid. We’d reveled in seven years of Star Wars and Star Wars toys, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (also Hasbro) and Mattel’s Masters of the Universe franchises launched in 1982, using Lucas’s simplistic moral universe as a backdrop, and then Hasbro struck again with these diecast shape-shifting robots yanked from Japanese company Takara…

Spaceport Employee Training Video, 1981

Spaceport was an East Coast mall arcade chain active in the early 1980s, competing with Time Out and Aladdin’s Castle. The interior was designed to resemble the inside of a spacecraft, with “escape hatches” protruding from the ceiling, cylindrical “E.V.A boosters” lining the walls, and various future-forward portals and struts…