Baby Nancy, sidewalk chalk and Jenga have been inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at the Strong National Museum of Play.
The honorees were unveiled during a special ceremony at the Strong and were chosen from a field of 12 finalists that also included bingo, Breyer Horses, Lite-Brite, Masters of the Universe, My Little Pony, Risk, Sorry!, Tamagotchi and Yahtzee.
In 1968, Operation Bootstrap launched Shindana Toys, a community-owned company dedicated to making toys that “reflect Black pride, Black talent and most of all, Black enterprise.” In its first year, Shindana produced Baby Nancy, a baby doll with a dark complexion and textured hair. By Thanksgiving 1968, she was the best-selling Black doll in Los Angeles, and before Christmas, she was selling nationwide.
“Although Shindana Toys ceased operations in 1983, Baby Nancy still stands as a landmark doll that made commercial and cultural breakthroughs,” said Curator Michelle Parnett-Dwyer.
Historians believe that the earliest people played with chalk, and traces of Paleolithic cave art executed in chalk have been found throughout the world. And anyone with a driveway and kids knows the value of a bucket of colored chalk to keep children busy for hours.
“There are few limits to what kids can do with chalk. Every sidewalk square, patio, and driveway holds the potential for a work of art, a winning game of strategy and cleverness, or a demonstration of physical agility, poise and balance,” said Chief Curator Christopher Bensch.
Englishwoman Leslie Scott created Jenga based on wooden blocks from her childhood in Africa. The word jenga is the imperative form of kujenga, the Swahili verb “to build.” The game challenges players to remove one block at a time from a tower without knocking it down.
“Fans say that much of Jenga’s success lies in its simplicity and ability to be played by almost anyone,” Curator Nicolas Ricketts said. “It is one of the rare games that’s equally fun for two people or a bigger crowd. It’s perfect for a game party with a group or something more intimate, but either way, it’s always sure to make instant memories.”
The National Toy Hall of Fame at the Strong, established in 1998, recognizes toys that have inspired creative play and enjoyed popularity over a sustained period. Each year, the hall inducts new honorees and showcases both new and historic versions of classic toys beloved by generations.
Anyone can nominate a toy to the National Toy Hall of Fame. Final selections are made on the advice of historians, educators and other individuals who exemplify learning, creativity and discovery through their lives and careers. Toys are celebrated year-round in a state-of-the-art exhibit at the Strong.
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