World War II spawned countless innovations that changed American life for decades to come—from the rugged Jeep, to mass-produced penicillin, to the terrifying atomic bomb. But, ironically, the war affected some US industries more than the toy business.

Not only were toy and game designers and makers able to take advantage of the latest scientific advances, such as colorful and cheap plastics; They also benefited from two other postwar trends. The baby boom – more than 76 million children born between 1946 and 1964 – offered them a record number of potential customers. And television, little more than a pre-war novelty, soon made it possible to expose the latest sport to millions of children at once. No wonder toy sales soared from $84 million in 1940 to $900 million by 1953 and into the billions by the early 1960s.