The History of the Hasbro Toy Company

Hasbro’s beginnings started in 1923 in Providence, Rhode Island. Two brothers, Henry and Helal Hassenfeld came to the United States from Poland. They started a textile remnant company that sold cloth leftovers. By the mid 1920s, they were using the cloth leftovers to make hat liners, covers for pencil boxes and several other school supplies. The pencil box covers became very popular so the brothers decided that they would make the boxes also. The company grew and by 1926 was incorporated under the business name of Hassenfeld Brothers Incorporated.

Helal pursued other opportunities in the textile industry giving the majority leadership to Henry. Henry’s tough business leadership made Hassenfeld Brothers Inc. a very successful business even through the “Great Depression”. Hassenfeld Brothers Inc. averaged $500,000 from sales of the pencil boxes and school supplies. They employed 150 employees in 1929 and 200 employees in 1930, something that was remarkable during this time.

The supplier who provided Hassenfeld Brothers Inc. with pencils increased the price they had been selling the pencils for. This same supplier also started selling pencil boxes for a lower price than Hassenfeld Brothers did. Henry got upset and decided that his company would start making their own pencils. So, in 1935 Hassenfeld Brothers Inc. started manufacturing pencils which provided the company with a steady stream of income for the next 45 years.

Because of the success and popularity of the children’s items that they made and sold, they decided to start making toys in the early 1940s. The first toys made by Hassenfeld Brothers Inc., were doctor and nurse kits. In 1942, school supply sales had decreased and the company became primarily a toy manufacturer. The company did however, continue making pencils.

Helal Hassenfeld died in 1943. Henry became the CEO and his son Merrill Hassenfeld became the president of Hassenfeld Brothers Inc. During this time the country was involved with World War II. It was during the World War II era that the company started using some plastic to make their toys. Also, labor shortages during this time forced the company to reduce their employees down to 75.

In 1952, George Lerner started looking for someone to back a toy that he had created called Mr. Potato Head. He presented his idea to Hassenfeld Brothers Inc. and Henry liked the idea so much that he purchased the rights for the toy from George. Mr. Potato Head would the first toy success story for Hassenfeld Brothers Inc. and the first toy to be advertised on television.

In 1964, the company realized that boys did not want to play with the same dolls that girls played with. They pursued an idea that was started from gaining a partnership with a television program called “The Lieutenant” and started producing action figures called G. I. Joe. “The Lieutenant” was a show about the U.S. Marine Corps. G. I. Joe military action toys brought in almost two-thirds of the company’s total sales during the first two years. Hassenfield Brothers Inc. would become the second largest toy manufacturer in the world.

Henry Hassenfield died in 1960. His son Merrill gained full control of the company and continued to lead its success. In 1968, the company name was shortened to Hasbro.

Hasbro has become one of the largest successful toy companies in the United States. Popular toys like Mr. Potato Head, G. I. Joe, Transformers, licensed Sesame Street items, Playskool toys, Nerf toys, Tonka trunks, Easy Bake Oven, Cabbage Patch Kids and several board games have helped make the Hasbro name one of the most recognized toy manufacturers in America.