Ronald Howes had an illustrious career as an inventor. While he did some defense work, what we care most about is his work at toy maker Kenner. There, he helped make Play-Doh less toxic, helped create the modern version of the Spirograph, and invented the Easy-Bake oven. He died last week at age 83.
The original idea came from street vendors roasting chestnuts on the streets of Manhattan.
As director of research and new product development for Cincinnati-based Kenner Products in the early 1960s, Mr. Howes created what would become a household name and one of America’s most iconic toys by drawing inspiration from a Kenner salesman who had just made a trip to New York City.
Upon returning, the salesman wondered aloud whether Kenner could develop a toy version of the chestnut roasters seen on many New York City street corners.
With that remark, the proverbial light bulb clicked on over Mr. Howes’ head.
The ovens, as you may know, use a light bulb to “cook” food, resulting in delicious cakes, brownies and other tiny powder-based food, with a minimal fire risk.
To celebrate Mr. Howes’ legacy, here are some fun Easy-Bake links.
Ronald Howes, inventor of Easy-Bake Oven, dies at 83 [Cincinnati Enquirer] (via Serious Eats – thanks, Kevin!)