2007 Herman Guy Fisher

      Herman G. Fisher was born in Unionville, Centre County PA, and received his preliminary education in Unionville and Bellefonte, but – after moving to State College – he graduated from State High in 1917. He obtained an undergraduate degree from Penn State’s School of Business in 1921, after paying his college tuition by selling Fuller brushes door to door and working in a clothing store, a steel mill, and a movie theatre.

      During his years at Penn State, he was active in undergraduate organizations including Froth (business manager), La Vie (board member), and Sigma Pi fraternity.  In successive years of ROTC, he held ranks of Sergeant Major, Cadet First Lieutenant, and Major, and also was adjutant on the regimental staff and a member of Scabbard and Blade, the military honor society.

      After graduation, Herman took a surety bond course in New York City, which led to a job with a bond company in Rochester NY. In 1926, he left that company to become the sales promotion and advertising manager of Alderman-Fairchild, a manufacturer of specialty paper boxes and games in Rochester, and after leaving Alderman-Fairchild he took the position of Vice President and General Manager of All Fair, a toy and game manufacturer located in Churchville. Herman and a group of investors tried to buy All Fair from the owners, but were unsuccessful, so he and his fellow investors decided to start their own business.

      Fisher, Irving L. Price, the mayor of East Aurora NY, and Helen M. Schelle, a toy store owner, founded the Fisher-Price Toy Company in East Aurora in 1930, with Fisher as CEO and President of a small company started during the Great Depression, when money was nearly impossible to come by. The three entrepreneurs had raised their 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 the great company that followed.

      Fisher knew he wanted to produce toys children would play 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.” He had 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 is – designed to appeal to preschoolers. Fisher-Price manufactured 16 different toys during its first year of operation, and Herman’s favorite toy he ever produced was made in that first year; it was Snoopy Sniffer, a wooden dog that barks, moves its feet (on wheels), and wiggles its spring tail when pulled by its red leash.

      By the end of the 1930s, Fisher-Price, the first toy company licensed to make Disney toys, was producing over 2 million action toys each year with annual sales of $1.6 million. Production of toys was stopped during World War II when the plant was 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 in 1950 to make toys out of plastic rather than only from ponderosa pine.

      Revenues at Fisher-Price grew to over $26 million in 1966, when he eventually relinquished the presidency and became chairman of the board. In 1969, management decided to sell the company to Quaker Oats, which paid $50 million for the company. Once Herman Fisher’s brainchild was sold, he retired from the firm completely, but Fisher-Price toys continued to make simple toys that had intrinsic play value.

      Some of Herman Fisher’s other accomplishments are: Director, Penn State College of Business Administration, 1968; Distinguished Alumnus, Penn State, 1969; Founder, Boys’ Club, East Aurora NY, Served as first president; Vice-Chairman, Community Chest Drive, Buffalo NY; Director, Liberty National Bank & Trust Co, Buffalo NY; Director, Buffalo Area Chamber of Commerce.

      In 1973, Fisher donated money to his alma mater, Penn State, and Fisher Plaza was constructed, 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 Buffalo, New York.