The venerable, ancient game of chess and the whimsical rubber duck were inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, New York, today. The honorees were selected from a field of 12 finalists that included: bubbles, Clue, Fisher-Price Little People, little green army men, Magic 8 Ball, My Little Pony, Nerf toys, Pac-Man, scooter, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. During the ceremony, held at The Strong in Rochester nationally syndicated cartoonist Leigh Rubin (Rubes®) presented two original commemorative cartoons.
One of the world’s oldest games, chess springs from an ancient Indian war game called chaturanga, in which pawns represented different types of fighting men. The game caught on in Asia and finally in Europe, where it was called “the royal game” or “the king’s game” because, during medieval times, the leisured nobility enjoyed playing it. By1475, in England, chess evolved into the game we recognize today, with similar pieces and moves. The oldest-known set of chess playing pieces, called the Lewis Chessmen, was found on the Isle of Lewis near Scotland. Dating from the 12th century, the pieces were carved from walrus ivory, probably in Norway. (A reproduction of that set is currently on view at the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester.)
No one knows who hatched the idea of the rubber duck. Rubber toys first appeared in the late 1800s, and the first rubber ducks didn’t even float: they were cast solid and intended as chew toys. By the 1940s, the yellow figure evolved into the iconic floating companion we recognize today. Brightly colored, smoothly textured, and sometimes squeaky, the toddler’s popular bath time friend sharpens senses, builds hand muscles and hand-eye coordination, and soothes youngsters’ fears of water. In1970, Sesame Street’s Ernie fixed the rubber duck’s image as the quintessential tub toy when he sang “Rubber Duckie,” a delightful ditty that actually rose to number16 on the Billboard chart of hit tunes. Today, rubber ducks aren’t even rubber—they’re mostly made of vinyl.
So what toy would you nominate for the Hall of Fame?
I’m thinking it’s obviously time for a chess set where every piece looks like a little rubber duck. It would be waterproof, of course, so it could be played in the bath tub.