What is it about light that makes it so appealing as an element of play? One of my recent blogs focused upon glow-in-the-dark toys that use phosphors and a form of light emission known as photoluminescence to provide a familiar greenish glow. I also described chemiluminescence, a form of light emission dependent upon a chemical reaction. Glow sticks, for example, use this form of illumination. However, Lite-Brite, a toy first produced by Hasbro in 1967, applied an entirely different approach to creating a glowing effect: it used a single 25-watt light bulb.
In the book Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them, author Tim Walsh provides some insight as to how the idea for Lite-Brite came to fruition. According to Walsh, Marvin Glass, Henry Stand, and Burt Meyer from the Chicago toy design firm Marvin Glass and Associates were walking down Fifth Avenue in New York City while in town for the 1966 Toy Fair when they spotted a colorful window display that used hundreds of colorful lights. The trio was awestruck by the display, as were other passersby. At that moment they felt inspired to create a toy that would mimic the same colorful light display concept, although they speculated that it might be difficult to create as a safe, in-home product that would be cost-effective to manufacture. Fortunately, Burt Meyer continued to brainstorm about this idea and started working on a prototype.