Sock Monkeys have been a beloved part of American culture since the mid-1900s. The traditional Sock monkey was made from the Rockford Red Heel® work sock, designed by John Nelso of Nelson Knitting Mills in Rockford, Illinois. The red heel that was designed to distinguish Nelson’s socks from other companies proved handy for making animal friends, as women began turning the socks into smiling monkeys and other fun toys. The red heel work sock was patented in 1953, and soon Nelson’s began including a sock monkey pattern in every package of work socks. The company is now known as Fox River® Mills and still manufactures the classic sock.
Ok, so they are obviously not primates, but worth mentioning here. Sea monkeys were introduced into American culture in 1960 as the brainchild of Harold von Braunhut, inventor of other such novelties as X-ray Specs and Crazy Crabs. According to the Sea Monkeys website, sea monkeys got their name from their funny behavior and long tails. Actually a unique variety of hybrid brine shrimp, Amazing Sea Monkeys are tiny aquatic crustaceans that can live up to two years in captivity with proper care. Can they really “come back from the dead” or “be hypnotized?” Who knows, but they do make pretty good pets, unlike real monkeys!
Zippy, Tippy, and Mr. Bim
Zippy the monkey was a stuffed animal fashioned after Zippy, a real-life chimpanzee that traveled the entertainment circuit during the 1950s, making regular appearances on the Howdy Doody show and visiting Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson, and other popular television shows from time to time. The stuffed animal features a bright yellow shirt with “ZIP” on the front and red overalls. Although difficult to imagine, Zippy had a girlfriend named Tippy that came ready to socialize in a lovely red dress and bow. Not to be confused with Mr. Bim, another popular stuffed primate from the 50s and 60s, Mr. Bim can be clearly distinguished from Zippy by the yellow banana he holds.
Monkey Playing Cymbals
Almost frightfully strange, this toy first surfaced toy markets in the 1950s. Perhaps Daishin C-K, the Japanese toy company that invented the toy, put a little too much realism into the teeth baring and screeching behavior that the original monkey exhibited. Given that this type of behavior would likely be considered a threat in the nonhuman primate world, it’s no surprise that many people report being terrified of the toy. As such, vivid descriptions of the toy were used by Stephen King to scare readers in his short story “The Monkey.” Since the original monkey surfaced, many toy manufacturers have produced their own version of the musical monkey, most of which are bought for their novelty.
Barrel of Monkeys
The expression “More Fun than a Barrel of Monkeys” has been in use since the 1800s and serves to describe something extremely fun or clever, the concept being that monkeys are generally thought of as entertaining and intelligent. In 1965, over 100 years later, Lakemore toys introduced a toy by the name of Barrel of Monkeys,” which has since served to entertain children who can make a monkey chain out of colorful s-shaped primates. Genuine Barrel of Monkeys are now made by Hasbro, with several toy companies manufacturing their own versions as well. Get in on your own Barrel of Monkey fun at the Shoppe!