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 May 14, 2005
G.I. Joe Gets Major Attention
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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) -- G.I. Joe, an action-figure toy with a love-or-hate history, drew a historic salute Friday from the National Toy Hall of Fame. "Some people like this toy -- a lot, and some don't like it -- a lot," Strong Museum's chief executive, G. Rollie Adams, said as the 40-year-old miniature soldier was enshrined along with the rocking horse and Scrabble.
    They joined 28 classic playthings, from Barbie to Mr. Potato Head, Legos to Lincoln Logs, Slinky to Play-Doh and Crayola crayons to marbles, hula hoops, jump ropes, Frisbees and jigsaw puzzles, that have been inducted into the six-year-old Hall of Fame.G.I. Joe and Scrabble are made by Hasbro, Inc., based in Pawtucket, R.I.
    The museum, which boasts the world's largest collection of toys and dolls, acquired the hall in 2002 from A.C. Gilbert's Discovery Village in Salem, Ore. One big qualifier for inclusion: Toys need to have fostered learning and creativity for multiple generations. "The most important thing" about G.I. Joe "is its influence as an innovator," Adams said. "Its creation in 1964 launched an entirely new category of toys ... best known as 'action figures."'
   The 11 1/2-inch-tall figure also inspired mixed reactions, its popularity temporarily dented as the Vietnam War transformed American political and cultural values, Adams said. Some argued that it "fosters violent play, leads to a 'might makes right' perspective and desensitizes us to war," Adams said. Others said it "inspires patriotism and bravery" and asked whether "its critics confuse fantasy with violence and therefore undervalue play as a means of overcoming fear?"
   More than 400 million G.I. Joes representing every branch of the U.S. military have been sold since Hasbro, without ever uttering the dreaded D-word, decided to market a doll to boys. The rocking horse, which dates to the 16th century, became a popular toy with the rise of horse breeding and racing in Europe. Scrabble was conceived by an unemployed architect in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., later sold to a Connecticut couple and began selling by the millions in the 1950s.
   The three honorees were chosen by a national committee. Nine other toys were nominated, including the Wiffle Ball, the Rubik's Cube and the Big Wheel. Strong Museum, which opened in 1982, contains more than 70,000 toys and dolls. It also features circus memorabilia, children's books, household furniture, miniatures and various objects of American culture dating from the 1820s.

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