The National Toy Hall of Fame® announced the induction of three toys into the hall of fame yesterday: little green army men, the Rubik’s Cube, and Bubbles. According to the hall of fame, more than 200 million bottles of bubble liquid are sold annually. In addition to providing generations of children with countless hours of open-ended play, soap bubbles were also responsible for the development of Kenner Products.
In 1946, Phil, Albert, and Joseph Steiner were an enterprising trio running the Grandpa Soap Co., a soap, flavoring, and extract business with offices on Kenner Street in Cincinnati, Ohio. Legend has it that soap led to the inspiration for the brothers’ next venture. After seeing a young boy dipping a wand into soapy water, then waving the wand to create giant bubbles, Albert Steiner was apparently inspired to create the firm’s first toy product: the Bubbl-Matic Gun.
A silver, quasi-squirt gun that shot a stream of bubbles instead of water, the Bubbl-Matic was distributed in boxes of soap and was so well received that the company switched businesses. The Bubbl-Matic is perhaps most notable for leading to the development of a second product, the Bub-L-Rocket. The Rocket sold more than a million units in Kenner Products’ second year and launched the fledgling business onto the path that would eventually see it become one of the top toy makers in the United States.