Hasbro, Inc. (formerly Hassenfeld Brothers) is an American multinational toy and board game company. It is one of the largest toy makers in the world. The corporate headquarters is located in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The majority of its products are manufactured in East Asia.
In 1923, three brothers named Hillel, Herman and Henry Hassenfeld founded Hassenfeld Brothers, a company selling textile remnants in Providence, Rhode Island. Over the next two decades, the company expanded to produce pencil cases and school supplies. In 1926, Hassenfeld Brothers was incorporated, with Hillel leaving for another textile business while Henry took charge of the corporation. With cost of pencils rising and their pencil supplier making pencil cases, the Hassenfelds began making their own pencils, becoming a source of funding for future lines.
In the 1940s, Hassenfeld Brothers produced doctor and nurse kits, its first toys, and modeling clay, becoming primarily a toy company by 1942. With Hillel's death in 1943, Henry Hassenfeld became CEO while his son, Merrill, became president. The company entered the plastic fields during World War II to support its toy line. Hassenfeld Brothers' first toy hit was Mr. Potato Head, which the company purchased from George Lerner in 1952. The toy was a smash success. In 1954, the company became a Disney major licencee.
In 1960, Henry died and Merrill took over the parent company and his older brother, Harold, ran the pencil-making business, Empire Pencil. Hassenfeld Brothers expanded to Canada with Hassenfeld Brothers (Canada) Ltd. in 1961. The company was approached in 1963 to license a toy based on The Lieutenant, which they turned down because they did not want to be tied to a possible short-lived television series. Instead, in 1964, Hassenfeld Brothers produced the G.I. Joe toy, which they termed an "action figure" in order to market the toy to boys who wouldn't want to play with "dolls". In 1964 and 1965, G.I. Joe accounted for ⅔ of Hassenfeld's sales.
Having previously sold toys under the Hasbro trade name, the company shortened its name to Hasbro Industries in 1968 and sold a minor stake in the corporation to the public.
With the unpopular Vietnam War at its height in 1969, Hasbro redesigned G.I. Joe to be less militaristic and more adventure oriented. Its promotional efforts included the catchphrase "Boy Oh Boy! It's A Hasbro Toy!" in television commercials and print ads.
Two new 1970s toys were public relations disasters. One of the toys was named Javelin Darts which were similar to the ancient Roman plumbata. On December 19, 1988, the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned lawn darts from sale in the United States due to their hazards as a flying projectile with a sharp metal point causing multiple deaths. The other toy was named The Hypo-Squirt, a hypodermic needle shaped water gun tagged by the press as a "junior junkie" kit. Both were recalled.
Merrill Hassenfeld took over as CEO in 1974 with his son, Stephen D. Hassenfeld, becoming president. The company became profitable once again, but had mixed results due to cash flow problems from increasing the number of toys in the line to offset G.I. Joe's declining sales. In 1975, the G.I. Joe line was ended by Hasbro, caused by the rising price of plastic via its raw material and crude oil's increasing prices. In 1977, Hasbro's losses were $2.5 million and the company held a large debt load. That same year, Hasbro acquired Peanuts cartoon characters licensing rights. Between 1978 and 1981, Stephen reduced the Hasbro product line by one-third and its new products by one-half. Hasbro focused on simple, low cost, longer life cycle toys like Mr. Potato Head. Hasbro thus stayed out of the electronic games field which went bust in the early 1980s.
In 1982, Hasbro revived its G.I. Joe line—with the help of Marvel Comics, as an anti-terrorist commando based on current events. The company launched the successful Transformers toy line along with a children's animated TV series two years later. With the toys and TV series being popular, Stephen Hassenfeld posed with the toys for a People magazine cover photo.
In 1982, Hasbro produced another successful toy franchise, My Little Pony. In 1984, Alan Hassenfeld took over as president from his brother Stephen, who continued as CEO and chairman. That same year, the company (then the nation's sixth-best-selling toymaker) acquired the Milton Bradley Company (then the nation's fifth bestselling toymaker), bringing The Game of Life, Twister, Easy Money and Playskool into the Hasbro fold and transforming Hasbro into Hasbro Bradley.
A year later, the company changed its name again to just Hasbro, Inc.
In the mid-1980s, Hasbro moved past Mattel to become the world's largest toy company. Hasbro then moved to outsell Mattel's Barbie in the fashion doll market with the 1986 introduction of Jem, a record producer/rock musician dual identity fashion doll. Initially posting strong sales, Jem plummeted and was withdrawn from the market in 1987. Hasbro followed up in 1988 with Maxie, a Barbie-sized blonde doll, so Barbie clothing and accessories would fit. Maxie lasted until 1990.
In 1988, Hasbro purchased part of Coleco Industries' indoor and outdoor children's furniture and ride-on toy product lines for $21 million, including two just closed manufacturing plants in Amsterdam, N.Y. In July 1989, Hasbro acquired bankrupt Coleco for $85 million. Stephen Hassenfeld died later that year with the company having gone from sales of $104 million in the year he took control to 1989 sales of over $1.4 billion.
Alan succeeded Stephen as chairman and CEO. In 1991, Hasbro purchased Tonka Corp. for $486 million, along with its Parker Brothers unit, the maker of Monopoly and Kenner Products. Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers were merged into one division. Alan moved to expand Hasbro overseas with new units in Greece, Hungary and Mexico.
In 2008, Hasbro acquired game maker Cranium, Inc. for $77.5 million. The deal was announced on January 4 and closed on January 25. Hasbro is collaborating with Discovery Communications on Hub Network, a new cable network which began on October 10, 2010. The venture proved successful in unexpected ways when the TV revival of the My Little Pony franchise, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, became the network's highest-rated program with not only its target demographic of young girls, but attracted an unexpectedly significant cult following among teens and adults. The Hub Network was rebranded Discovery Family on October 13, 2014. Hasbro also produces Marvel Comics and Star Wars toys, having recently renewed this deal through at least 2020.
Toys and games
Hasbro has several brands of toys and games aimed at different demographics. Some of its better-known toy lines (past and present) are:
- Action Man
- Battle Beasts
- Cabbage Patch Kids (1989–1994)
- Easy-Bake Oven
- FurReal Friends (Furry Frenzies)
- G.I. Joe
- Sesame Street
- Jurassic Park
- Lincoln Logs
- Littlest Pet Shop
- Mr. Potato Head
- My Little Pony
- Pokémon (1998–2005)
- Pound Puppies
- Star Wars
- Talk 'n Play
- Marvel Action Figures
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