Please join me and many industry colleagues for one or all the events during Chicago Toy & Game Week November 21 - 24. www.chitag.com One of the events, the magical and celebratory Toy & Game Inventor of the Year Awards (the TAGIEs), is honoring Howard Morrison for Lifetime Achievement - an incredible person. - Richard Gottlieb
When you ask what folks remember most about Howard Morrison, they’ll tell you it’s his smile, his sharp wit, and the twinkle in his eye. They’ll also tell you he was a giant, prolific, creative brain and a tireless champion for everyone he worked with. He encouraged the creativity of young toy designers, engineers and partners alike.
Up until his retirement from Chicago’s BMT Toys in 1997, Morrison was an alchemist, uncovering potential, turning ideas into real toys that delighted millions of children around the world.
He had a knack for finessing rough, early stage concepts and was a team player who always looked for possibilities before problems.
A Path to Toys
Howard Joel Morrison’s toy story begins in 1932 on the north side of Chicago, where he spent his childhood playing with mechanical and building toys like Erector sets, Tinker Toys and blocks. He loved to experiment and take toys apart to see how they worked.
His parents provided him with a workshop in their basement when he was around 11 or 12 years old, where he spent his free time making models and then building and repairing bicycles, motor scooters, and eventually moving on to motorcycles and cars.
When he was about 13 years old, he built his own motorized scooter. He recalls riding it one day and getting pulled over by the police. The officer couldn't believe Morrison was only 13 or that he had built the scooter himself. He hauled Howard down to the jail, arresting him for not having a valid driver’s license.
Morrison was entrepreneurial from the beginning. As a young boy, he made small wooden toy wheelbarrows to hold building blocks. He sold these to a children’s shop near his home.
He learned how to make dolls, by hand, out of yarn. His mother would crochet hats and clothes for them and he would sell them out on the street for 25 to 50 cents each. He would sell out every time. After a while, Morrison figured out how to improve his manufacturing process by making a crank machine that allowed him to wrap the yarn faster. Instead of making the dolls one at a time, he could then make them 12 at a time!
As a teen, he loved physics and creative subjects in school. And he loved model-building.