Cultural Artifact

The GI Joe doll is a military doll made for boys. It is offered as four different military branch styles, Army, Navy, Air force, and Marines. The term GI stands for Government Issue. The GI Joe doll was launched on February 2, 1964. The whole reason behind starting these new dolls for boys was because of the success of the Barbie doll. Stan Weston came up with the idea and went to Don Levine, the director of Hasbro, a toy manufacturer. Hasbro saw potential for this new toy so they approved development of the GI Joe doll. The dolls featured a World War 2 theme and were almost the same size as the ever popular Barbie doll, twelve inches tall. 


This cultural artifact was and still is very significant to American culture because it changed the way America thought about boys playing with dolls. The invention of the GI Joe doll made it alright for boys to play with dolls. This was never the case before in America. Boys played with things like trucks and baseballs, not dolls. The GI Joe doll also started the whole action figure toy collection that still exists in America today and is very popular. The purpose of the GI Joe doll was to obviously make money for the Hasbro Company but to also try a new idea and see how it would work. It was intended for boys but some girls did play with it because in a way it resembled the Barbie doll since it was the same size and was intended for boys just like how the Barbie was intended for girls. Originally they were only made as Caucasian men but later in 1965 a black doll was introduced.  As far as availability goes, the doll was fairly priced and pretty much all families in America could afford to purchase a doll for their boys. The dolls were heavily advertised on television across America. The GI was advertised on televisions and radios across the country.  When word got out about the dolls every young boy spread the word to their friends and that helped to market the toy a great deal.  One of the carriers of the toy was Sears, and it was also sold in small privately owned toy stores.


In 1964, Americans were still dealing with the Vietnam War.  The young kids of the new baby boomer generation were growing up at a time when America was still involved in the Vietnam War.  The United States entered the war in 1950 to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam.  Growing up while America was at war and also hearing World War Two stories from dads and grandfathers influenced an interest in American military and this can be credited to the invention of the GI Joe toy.  Now with the GI Joe doll, stories that kids heard about war were brought to life.  Growing up in a time of warfare encouraged young boys into thinking that the military in general is cool, and that it was only normal to like combat and to make up war games with friends.  Leading up to the introduction of the new GI Joe doll were popular war movies like, The Longest Day, a WW2 movie from 1962.  Movies and other things like radio and television news broadcasts prove how pop culture influenced young boys to be interested in warfare which led to the invention of the GI Joe doll.  Most boys in 1964 played outdoor activities with friends.  Since there were no games systems or computers back in that time, boys would ride bikes, play baseball, football and other sports or simply just hangout with each other.  With the invention of the GI Joe doll, boys would play combat games with their friends, and if it were not possible to play outside because of weather conditions instead of laying board games inside, GI Joe was the new choice.

suggestions for further reading

Cross Gary. Kids Stuff: Toys and the Changing World of American Childhood. Cambridge, Harbard University Press, 1997

-This source is of a book I looked at in a local library at home. The Fox Chase Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. This source provided the date of when the GI Joe Doll was launched.

Fraser, Antonia. A History of Toys. Frankfurt-am- main, Delacorte Press, 1966

-This source listed above was found in the library CAT.  It generally explained how the GI Joe was related to the Barbie and how popular the GI Joe became.

"G.I. Joe, the Action Figure- in History - Associated Content." Associated Content - 09 Apr. 2009 <

                -This source gave me the information about the team at Hasbro who developed the idea of creating a doll for boys.

St. James encyclopedia of popular culture. Detroit: St. James P, 2000.

I found this source in the Hazleton library. It didn’t give much information but told me about how the toy was advertised and  some stores that sold it.