The Secret History of Play-Doh

If you grew up with Play-Doh, you might be surprised to learn about its original purpose — it was invented as a wallpaper cleaner.

In an earlier time, coal was the preferred home-heating method.  But burning coal produces soot, which sticks to wallpaper.  So Kroger was looking for a product that would clean wallpaper.   In the late 1920s, they turned to Cleo and Noah McVicker, who were trying to revive a Cincinnati soap company named Kutol.  The brothers invented a dough-like substance that could be rolled across walls to remove dirt.

It worked reasonably well, but technology marches on — easy-to-clean vinyl wallpaper was invented and coal started to fall out of favor for home heating. Meanwhile in 1949, Cleo McVicker died in a plane crash, and his son, Joseph, and son-in-law, Bill Rhodenbaugh, came into the company.  Joseph’s sister-in-law Kay Zufall operated a nursery school and was looking for an inexpensive material for Christmas decorations.  she had read how wallpaper cleaner could be used as modeling clay, so she tried it.

The kids loved it!  When Joseph heard of this new use, he reinvented his product as a children’s toy.  Joseph and Noah created Rainbow Crafts Company Inc. to manufacture and sell Play-Doh in 1956.  Three billion cans later, the Play-Doh brand sells compound and playsets in more than 80 countries.

The complete story is at  The picture came from that site.

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