What The Flu Epidemic of 1918 Can Tell Us About the Toy Industry’s Next 5 Years


Children and their parents were forced to quarantine during the 1918 Flu Epidemic’s worst two years, 1918-1919. Then as now Games, Puzzles and Construction Toys were a must-have way to play. But once the epidemic passed, did they continue to be popular?

To find out what lasting effects the 1918 Flu Epidemic had on the toy industry, I decided to use the Google Ngram Viewer as a source of information. An Ngram viewer charts the frequency that specific words appeared in books over a designated period.

My supposition is that frequency of use would equate to the popularity of the product. I chose to track the words “Puzzles”, “Construction Toys”, and “Games” from 1900 through 1924.

What can we make of this data? If we assume that the frequency of the word Puzzles, Games, or Construction Toys equates to the popularity of the product, then we can state that the results of the Flu Epidemic Quarantines in 1918-1919 had a lasting positive impact on the demand and sales of these product categories.


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The Ngram shows that the term Puzzles peaked in 1918 and more-or-less plateaued for the next five years.


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Construction Toys rose out of nowhere in 1919 and then rose sharply through 1924.


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Games were on an upward climb from 1900 through 1924. The rise appears to have accelerated after 1918.

Based on these pieces of historical data, we can anticipate (hopefully) that history will repeat itself.

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