Born in 1932 on the north side of Chicago, Mr. Morrison spent his childhood tinkering with mechanical and building toys such as Erector Sets. A budding hands-on entrepreneur at a young age, he inherited an in-home workshop where he crafted wooden toy wheelbarrows and yarn dolls to sell to the neighbourhood. Upon graduating from Chicago’s Senn High School, he pursued a varied college education at the University of Illinois at Chicago; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Deforest Trade School for Industrial Electronics; Illinois Institute of Technology, as well as the University of Wisconsin. His studies included architecture, liberal arts, and electrical engineering.
Beginning his career in electronics, Mr. Morrison ventured to Underwriters Laboratories to test electrical products for safety. He followed with 11 years at a small firm specialising in custom test equipment for industrial applications. His tenacity for creating top-notch toys emerged when he took a position with Strombecker Corporation (TootsieToy) in 1963 and later with Marvin Glass and Associates (MGA) in 1967, becoming a partner in 1969.
One of Mr. Morrison’s early standouts with MGA was the Super Sonic Power Racers product line for Kenner Toys, a best-seller for more than a decade after its 1970 debut. MGA remained a key player in the industry until 1988, when the company disbanded. Mr. Morrison and two longtime partners then joined forces, forming Breslow Morrison Terzian & Associates (BMT Toys). BMT, later updated to Big Monster Toys, remains a toy invention powerhouse today – according to one estimate, 70% of all children in the US have played with a product from the company.
While Mr. Morrison retired from BMT in 1997, his legacy lives on through his innovative products. His most popular toy was Simon, one of the earliest and all-time bestselling handheld electronic games. In the 1980s, Mr. Morrison produced Bingo the Talking Bear for Hasbro, followed by Bubba the Bear, another mechanical, interactive character that would be a hit for Tyco, and later sold by Mattel. He was also the creator of the Inchworm ride-on toy by Hasbro Romper Room.
Rouben Terzian, partner at BMT and MGA for a combined 33 years, said: “I can say without hesitation that if it hadn’t been for some of the products Howard created, there would have been no BMT, and there would have been no toy inventing culture in Chicago. We owe a lot to Howard.”
The Chicago Toy & Game Group will toast the mind of Mr. Morrison, along with several other winners, at the Grand Ballroom of Chicago’s Navy Pier on November 22, 2013 from 6-10pm. For more information of the sixth instalment of the TAGIE Awards, visit http://www.tagieawards.com.
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