Wednesday, November 4th is National Easy-Bake Oven Day (NEBOD), an event that pays homage to the iconic toy oven and its enduring role in popular culture. Fifty-seven years after its first release, the oven has become a symbol of childhood play, a pop culture icon, and the inspiration of many conversations that continue to be relevant, including about nostalgia, gender-based marketing, childhood memories, and the importance of play.
Cincinnati-based Kenner Products first launched the Easy-Bake Oven in 1963. It was an immediate hit, selling all half-million pieces the company first produced and tripling sales the next year. Some reports from the time tell of female consumers physically fighting each other to get their hands on one.
Pop-culture pundits often say that trends fade quickly and ultimately make a comeback every twenty years or so. The Easy-Bake Oven belies this notion. Its staying power has been consistent for nearly sixty years, with more than thirty-five million ovens sold to date.
Part of the toy’s success lies in its resiliency and adaptability. Over the past fifteen years, the Easy-Bake has navigated through a product recall, pivoted away from incandescent light bulbs, and responded to a thirteen-year-old’s online campaign with the release of a gender-neutral model.
Toys with a five-decade track record often have a sweet history (pun intended). The Easy-Bake Oven is no exception – consider these five fun facts about the oven:
- To convince parents the oven was safe to use, Kenner originally wanted to name it the Safety-Bake Oven. The idea was nixed by regulatory bodies in the advertising industry as it had no safety track record to support the name.
- The original Easy-Bake Oven mixes had a two-year shelf life because they were packaged in polyethylene laminated to aluminum foil.
- The cost of the original Easy-Bake Oven was US $15.95 ($136 in today’s dollars).
- The Easy-Bake Oven has made cameo appearances in numerous television shows, including Roseanne, Friends, Seinfeld, How I Met Your Mother, and Fringe.
- Over the years, the Easy-Bake Oven has received numerous accolades. In 2003, the Toy Industry Association listed it on its Century of Toys list. In 2006, it was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong Museum in Rochester, NY. In 2011, Time magazine named the oven as one of its 100 All-Time Great Toys.
Happy National Easy-Bake Oven Day! Be sure to check out the NEBOD website, where you’ll find free, fun downloadable party favors!
Todd Coopee is Editor-in-Chief of Toy Tales, an online publication that covers toys and games past and present.