Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Unionville, Centre County
Born in Unionville, Herman Fisher would found the Fisher-Price toy company.
Herman G. Fisher was born in Unionville, Pennsylvania in 1898. After completing his elementary and secondary education in Unionville and Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, Fisher attended The Pennsylvania State University, from which he graduated in 1921. Fisher first took some odd jobs then accepted a position at All Fair, Inc. Fisher and some friends tried unsuccessfully to buy All Fair, Inc. When this plan failed, they began their own company called Fisher-Price Toy Company. In the late 1960s, Fisher-Price had financial troubles and opted to sell the company. At this point, Fisher retired from the company. In 1975, Fisher died in Buffalo, New York.
Herman G. Fisher was born to Ellwood and Mary J. Fisher on November 2, 1898, in Unionville, Pennsylvania. Fisher received his preliminary education in Unionville and Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania State University was where Fisher chose to attain his undergraduate degree from the school of business in 1921. Fisher paid for his college tuition by selling Fuller brushes door to door and working in a clothing store, a steel mill, and a movie theatre. While at Penn State, Fisher was on the staff of the yearbook and PHROTH, a comedy magazine. Fisher also participated in R.O.T.C. Fisher received his basic training in Plattsburgh, New York and was later admitted to Scabbard & Blade, a military honor society. After his military graduation, Herman took a surety bond course in New York City. Completion of the course led to a job with a bond company in Rochester, New York. In 1926, Fisher left the bond company to become the sales promotion and advertising manager of Alderman-Fairchild Co., a manufacturer of specialty paper boxes and games in Rochester, New York. After leaving Alderman-Fairchild, Fisher took the position of Vice President and General Manager of All Fair, Inc. toy and game manufacturer, located in Churchville, New York. Fisher and a group of investors tried to buy All Fair Inc. from the owners, but were unsuccessful. When Fisher and his fellow investors were unable to purchase All Fair Inc., they decided to start their own business. Fisher, Irving L. Price, the mayor of East Aurora, and Helen M. Schelle, a toy store owner, founded the Fisher-Price Toy Company in East Aurora, New York in 1930. Fisher served as C.E.O. and President of the small, start-up company. Fisher-Price Toy Company was started during the Great Depression and money and capital in the stock market were nearly impossible to come by. The three entrepreneurs raised funds from local businesses and enticed workers with promises of shares in future profits. In 1931, a combination office and showroom was set up in New York City; this was the beginning of a great company. Fisher knew that he wanted to produce toys that children played with. To ensure his vision happened, he insisted that each toy have “intrinsic play value, ingenuity, strong construction, good value for the money, and action.” Despite Fisher’s hectic life, he found time to marry Suzanne Edwina Greist on September 24, 1932. Suzanne and Herman had three children, Susan, Rachel, and John Burgis. Fisher often studied his children and their friends while they played to see what qualities children liked in toys. The first line of toys was, and still are, designed to appeal to preschoolers. Fisher-Price manufactured 16 different toys during its first year of operation. These toys were made to last because they were made of ponderosa pine. Fisher’s favorite toy Fisher-Price ever produced was made in this first year of production, the Snoopy Sniffer. The Snoopy Sniffer is a wooden dog that barks, moves its feet, and wiggles its spring tail when pulled by its red leash. After some rough financial patches, Fisher-Price Toy Company finally started to make some profit in 1936. Fisher-Price began to become successful as parents of the 1930s realized Fisher-Price toys were safe, durable, affordable, entertaining, and educational. By the late 1930s, Fisher-Price Toy Company was the leader in the field of toys. Fisher-Price was also the first toy company to be licensed to make toys using Walt Disney characters. Fisher Price began producing Disney toys in 1935. Production of toys was stopped at the Fisher-Price Toy Company during World War II when the plant was forced to start making ship fenders, glider ailerons, and medical chests. In 1946, toy production was resumed and the new focus on a highly child-centered, suburban environment made the 1940s and 1950s some of the most prosperous years in the company’s history. A big step in Fisher-Price’s history was when it began to make toys out of plastic rather than only from ponderosa pine in 1950. In 1966, Herman Fisher stepped down from his position as president, but became the chairman of the board. In the later 1960s, Fisher-Price experienced plummeting sales and lacked the finances to develop new products. Management became very frustrated with the lack of sales and decided to sell the company to Quaker Oats, the cereal and oatmeal conglomerate, in 1969. Quaker Oats paid $50 million for the Fisher-Price Toy Company. Once Herman Fisher’s brainchild was sold to Quaker Oats, he retired from the firm completely. Even after Fisher-Price was bought out, the toys made remained similar. Fisher-Price toys continued to make simple toys that had intrinsic play value. In 1973, Fisher donated money to his alma mater, Penn State, to construct Fisher Plaza. Fisher Plaza still stands on Penn State’s campus today; it is a nicely landscaped area that has become a popular spot for studying and lunch time breaks. Herman Fisher passed away on September 26, 1975, in Millard Fillmore Hospital located in Buffalo, New York.