Nation briefs 02-06-14 G.I. Joe, world's first action figure, celebrated at 50

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- G.I. Joe is turning 50.

The birthday of what's called the world's first action figure is being celebrated this month by collectors and the toy maker that introduced it just before the nation plunged into the quagmire that would become the Vietnam War -- a storm it seems to have weathered pretty well.

Since Hasbro brought it to the world's attention at the annual toy fair in New York City in early 1964, G.I. Joe has undergone many changes, some the result of shifts in public sentiment for military-themed toys, others dictated by the marketplace.

Still, whether it's the original "movable fighting man" decked out in the uniforms of the four branches of the U.S. military, or today's scaled-down products, G.I. Joe remains a popular brand.

"Joe stood for everything that was meant to be good: fighting evil, doing what's right for people," said Alan Hassenfeld, the 65-year-old former CEO for Pawtucket, R.I.-based Hasbro Inc., whose father, Merrill, oversaw G.I. Joe's development in 1963.

But it's Don Levine, then the company's head of research and development, who is often referred to as the "father" of G.I. Joe for shepherding the toy through design and development. Levine and his team came up with an 111⁄2-inch articulated figure with 21 moving parts, and since the company's employees included many military veterans, it was decided to outfit the toy in the uniforms of the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force, with such accessories as guns, helmets and vehicles.

To display Emancipation Proclamation: The National Archives is placing the original Emancipation Proclamation on display in Washington to mark Black History Month. The special display will run from Feb. 15-17. The document will be shown in the archives' new "Records of Rights" permanent exhibit about the evolution of rights and freedoms from the nation's founding. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War in 1863 to proclaim that freedom of all slaves held in the South. The original document is displayed for only a limited time each year because of its fragile condition.

Texas executes woman: Suzanne Basso, convicted of torturing and killing a mentally impaired man she lured to Texas with the promise of marriage, was put to death Wednesday evening in Huntsville in a rare execution of a female prisoner. The lethal injection of Basso, 59, made the New York native only the 14th woman executed in the U.S. since the Supreme Court in 1976 allowed capital punishment to resume. Almost 1,400 men have been put to death during that time. Before being put to death, Basso told a warden who stood near her, "No sir," when asked to make a final statement.

Tries again to change union rules: Labor regulators are trying once again to streamline the process in which workers decide whether to join labor unions, a move sure to reignite the bitter debate between union advocates and employers that seek to discourage workers from unionizing. The National Labor Relations Board proposed rules Wednesday that would allow unions to hold workplace elections more quickly by simplifying procedures, setting shorter deadlines and requiring businesses to hand over lists of employee phone numbers and emails to union leaders before an election. That could make it easier for unions to organize and reverse decades of steep membership declines. The board approved similar rules more than two years ago, but business groups challenged them in court and a federal judge ruled in 2012 that the NLRB failed to follow proper voting procedures. The judge did not consider the merits of the rules, leaving the door open for the board to try again.

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